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Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Surapong: Hun Sen will help Veera, Ratree get pardons

Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen has shown an intention to help Thai Patriots Network coordinator Veera Somkwankid and his secretary Ratree Pipattanapaiboon get a royal pardon, Foreign Minister Surapong Tovichakchaikul said in New York on Tuesday.

Mr Surapong said the matter was discussed with Hun Sen when he and Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra visited Cambodia on Sept 15.

The Cambodian prime minister said he would help by getting a reduction of the jail terms they were sentenced to by the Phnom Penh Court. This would enable them to meet the requirement for seeking a royal pardon.

Steps must be taken before reaching that stage but it was unlikely to be too long before they were freed because Hun Sen had expressed his intention to help, said the foreign minister.

Mr Surapong said this move to help Veera and Ratree out under a royal pardon was not the same as that mentioned by Justice Minister Pracha Promnok on Monday.

Pol Gen Pracha said the two could not be freed early under a presoner exchange programme, in which a prisoner can be sent home after having served one-third of the sentence first and the case must not concern national security.

Veera and Ratree were among the seven Thais arrested by Cambodian authorities for illegally crossing the border into Cambodia on Dec 29 last year. Five of them confessed to the illegal entry charges, were sentenced to jail terms, and released shortly after some time in jail.

Veera and Ratree were additionally charged with spying. The court sentenced Veera to eight years in prison and Ratree to six years after finding them guilty as charged.

Under Cambodian law they must first serve two-thirds of their sentences to be eligible for a royal pardon.

Mr Surapong also said representatives of all countries he met with had asked about the state of Thai-Cambodian ties and they were pleased to learn from him that the two countries could now resume their normal relationship.

Relations between Thailand and Cambodia soured during the Abhisit Vejjajiva government because of internal political pressure within Thailand.

Prospects for improved relations came with the Pheu Thai Party's victory in the July general election.

“Many countries are glad that Thailand can now talk with Cambodia, so the Association of Southeast Asia Nations (Asean) can now move toward becoming a single community in 2015,’’ said Mr Surapong.

They included German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle.

Mr Thailand is expected to expand relations with Germany through exchanges of science, renewable energy and other innovations in which Germany has expertise.

During a meeting of the Conference on Interaction and Confidence Building Measures in Asia (CICA), Thailand asked to opt out of hosting the CICA meeting because of budget and personnel constraints.

However, Thailand affirmed its firm policies on small and medium enterprises (SMEs) promotion and drug suppression as it wanted CICA to promote the cooperation of the border security and transnational crimes.

With Ukraine, Thailand has sought cooperation with it on trade expansion.

Thailand has asked Ukraine to allow multiple visa entry for Thai agro-business giant CP Group and Boonrawd Brewery, which have started doing business in that country.

In return, Ukraine asked Thailand to consider a 30-day visa free privilege for its citizens to visit Thailand, said Mr Surapong.

He also said Iran has asked Thailand for support it during the Human Rights Council meeting after it Teheran was condemned for not allowing women to drive cars.

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