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Monday, January 03, 2011

Clips show Panich in Cambodia

MP's video phone call suggests Abhisit knew

Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva knew Democrat MP Panich Vikitsreth had intruded on Cambodian territory before Mr Panich and six other Thais were arrested by Cambodian soldiers, video footage posted on YouTube shows.

One of the video clips shows Mr Panich making a phone call to his secretary, named in the conversation as Q. Mr Panich asked Q to inform the prime minister through Mr Abhisit's secretary, Somkiat Krongwatanasuk, that they had crossed the border into Cambodia.

"Please tell Somkiat to inform the prime minister that we are already inside Cambodia. I planned to call the prime minister myself but it is okay now," Mr Panich says on the phone to his secretary .

"Call him [Somkiat] so in case there are problems, we can coordinate because we are already in a Cambodian area. And make sure that he does not tell anybody because only the prime minister must know this."

Mr Panich was vice minister for foreign affairs before he resigned last year to contest a by-election and win a seat as an MP. He is now a member of the lower house committee which vets the memorandums of understanding agreed to by the Thai-Cambodian Joint Boundary Commission, which is responsible for demarcating the shared border.

The video footage is seen as contradicting claims that the Bangkok MP and six others including Veera Somkwamkid, a member of the People's Alliance for Democracy (PAD), did not cross the border into Cambodia from Khok Sung district in Sa Kaeo on Dec29.

The footage is believed to have been recorded by one of the Thais now being held in prison for trespassing on Cambodian territory.

The voice of one of the Thais is heard on the videos as warning the other members of the group that they could be arrested for entering Cambodia.

Mr Panich and his group were on an inspection tour of the border area after a villager claimed he had evidence to prove the land was part of Thailand.

The seven are now being detained at Prey Sar prison on the outskirts of Phnom Penh. They are expected to be tried possibly today for trespassing on Cambodian territory.

Acting government spokesman Panitan Wattanayagorn said yesterday it could not be interpreted from Mr Panich's comments recorded on the footage that Mr Abhisit had ordered him to enter Cambodia.

"It is impossible for the prime minister to order a party MP to do that. Why would he do that?" Mr Panitan said.

Mr Panitan said Mr Panich was doing his duty as a member of the lower house committee and was unaware he had entered Cambodia at the time of his arrest.

Mr Somkiat said yesterday he had received a phone call from Mr Panich but that was after the Democrat lawmaker had been detained. He stressed that he did not know about the trip in advance.

The army, meanwhile, is trying to stop a rally by the PAD-allied Thai Patriots Network planned for today in Sa Kaeo for fear of further damage to the already fragile but improving relations between Thailand and Cambodia.

First Army commander Udomdet Sitabutr warned the demonstrators not to gather near the border for fear they might unintentionally enter Cambodian territory.

It would be better if the protesters sent their representatives to submit their requests to the Sa Kaeo administration office instead of gathering in a large crowd near the border, he said.

Chavanond Intarakomalyasut, secretary to Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya, also called on the Thai Patriots Network to call off its rally to demand the release of the seven Thais.

He said the action would only lead to confusion in Cambodia that Thailand was using the political group to put pressure on it.

Over 500 villagers in Khok Sung district gathered yesterday in front of the district office to protest against the planned rally by the network and PAD supporters in the district.

The villagers said they had suffered enough from the latest dispute that had led to the closure of the border. Cambodian labourers could not come to work as usual.

Phatcharee Vikitsreth, the wife of Mr Panich, and the families of the other six detainees are in Phnom Penh in a bid to seek bail for them.

They visited them yesterday at the prison, Mr Chavanond said, adding that Thai embassy staff had also visited the seven detainees and given them clothes and food.

"Now we are focusing on how to help the seven Thais ... we can't really say if they will be brought to court today [as expected] or not," he said.

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