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Thursday, June 16, 2011

Premier says suspected spy leader has fled country

Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva has admitted that the suspected leader of three men arrested for alleged spying on the Thai-Cambodian border has managed to flee the country.

The three alleged spies after their arrest in Si Sa Ket province on June 7
 Mr Abhisit yesterday said he had received information from authorities concerned that the suspected leader of the group, who is a Cambodian colonel, had escaped from Thailand.

Police are now questioning the three men who were detained in connection with the alleged spying to find out further information, Mr Abhisit said.

He insisted that Thailand had not fabricated the spying allegations against Cambodia.

A Thai, a Cambodian and a Vietnamese, were arrested in Kantharalak district of Si Sa Ket on the evening of June 7 carrying maps with military bases marked on them, according to police.

The three were identified as Suchart Muhammad, a 32-year-old Thai Muslim, Cambodian citizen Ung Kimtai, 43, and Nguyen Teng Dang, 37, a Vietnamese national. All three suspects denied they were spying in the area.

Cambodia accused Thailand of "deceitful fabrication" following the arrests. Phnom Penh said the spy claims were fabricated to justify Thai aggression against Cambodia along the border.

Police said Mr Suchart had admitted that he was paid 5,000 baht to drive a pickup truck for a group of six men to gather information on Thai military bases and bomb shelters at villages along the border in Si Sa Ket.

Mr Suchart told police that the group was led by a Cambodian man called Wichai.

Mr Wichai and three other men managed to escape police arrest while the three others were arrested.

Mr Suchart alleged that Mr Wichai had managed to get away with maps with information on the Thai military bases in the area.

On Wednesday, the provincial court in Kantharalak district issued a warrant for the arrest of Mr Wichai on a charge of espionage.

The name on his passport is reported to be Ya Pov or Chea Pov.

The 48-year-old Cambodian man is believed to have the military rank of colonel and runs a business in Cambodia, according to police.

An Immigration Police source said it was believed Mr Wichai left Thailand and crossed into Cambodia on June 9 via the immigration checkpoint at Sa Kaeo's Aranyaprathet district.

Deputy Prime Minister Suthep Thaugsuban yesterday defended soldiers and police who failed to capture the suspected leader of the alleged spying gang.

Mr Suthep said the army had done its best to prevent Cambodians from spying on Thai territory.

He said he did not think the escape was the army's fault.

Mr Suthep, who is in charge of national security, said the information on Thailand's military bases which Mr Wichai had obtained was not strategically important.

The bitter border dispute between Thailand and Cambodia has seen 28 people killed this year, and the row has since moved to the United Nations' International Court of Justice.
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Assembly Approves Triple-Country Convention

The law passed with 83 votes from the Cambodian People’s Party, zero from the Sam Rainsy Party and a boycott from the Human Rights Party.

Cambodia’s ruling party on Thursday approved a regional convention that would set up a joint development area between Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam, but which opposition critics argue would cede land to Vietnam.

The law passed with 83 votes from the Cambodian People’s Party, zero from the Sam Rainsy Party and a boycott from the Human Rights Party.

The law would set up a special economic zone and would require the placement of a border marker stone at the intersection of all three countries.

Supporters of the law said it will help create a development area for four provinces in Cambodia’s northeast, as well as neighboring provinces of Laos and Vietnam.

Var Kimhong, chairman of Cambodia’s Border Committee, told the National Assembly the plan would include setting a granite marker at the intersection of the three countries’ borders, which would be protected from any effort of removal or damage.

However, SRP lawmaker Ke Sovannroth told the Assembly that the border in that area remains unclear and that Cambodia could be losing land by agreeing to the convention.

“We should not pass it,” she said. “If we pass it, it means that we recognize it. So we are also responsible for the history.”

Laos ratified the convention in July 2009, but it has yet to be approved by Vietnam.
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