Veera, Ratree nearer to freedom

The Ministry of Justice of Cambodia is considering Prime Minister Hun Sen's instruction to reduce the prison term for Veera Somkwamkid and to pardon Ratree Pipattanapaiboon, according to a press statement issued by the Foreign Ministry of Cambodia on Thursday.

Yingluck: Consider pardoning Veera and Ratree

According to the statement, Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra asked the Cambodian prime minister during the Asean Summit in Phnom Penh in November last year to consider pardoning the two imprisoned Thais. She made the same request on Thursday.

In response to Ms Yingluck's request, Mr Hun Sen instructed the Ministry of Justice to consider reducing Veera's duration of imprisonment, which could lead to a pardon in the future, and the pardoning of Ratree, on the occasion of the royal cremation of former king Norodom Sihanouk.

The cremation has been set for Feb 4.

The Cambodian Justice Ministry will decide soon on the matter, the statement said.

Ms Yingluck this morning confirmed she had been notified of the move by Cambodian authorities.

She said that according to the message passed to her, Ratree would be released and Veera's jail term reduced by six months.

The prime minister praised Cambodia's cooperation, saying that Thai prisoners in the neighbouring country usually get their jail terms reduced on important occasions.

This is an indication of good relations between Thailand and Cambodia, she added.

Veera and Ratree were arrested along with five other Thais, including then-Democrat Party MP Panich Vikitsreth, on Dec 29, 2010 while "inspecting" a disputed border zone near Sa Kaeo's Ban Nongchan area.

The two are currently being held in Prey Sar Prison near Phnom Penh. Veera was sentenced to eight years in jail and Ratree to six years on charges of espionage and illegal entry. Veera had previously been deported from Cambodia for illegal entry.

The five others were released after the court suspended their sentences of nine months in jail for illegal entry.

Ms Yingluck said she had not been briefed on a report that a group of people would rally along the Thai-Cambodian border on Jan 12-13 to oppose the ruling by the International Court of Justice (ICJ) on the disputed area immediately around Preah Vihear temple.

However, she had instructed the army to maintain peace along the border.

Army chief Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha, second left, inspects the border at Pha Mor E-Daeng in Kantharalak district, Si Sa Ket province. (Photo by Sermphong Thongsamrit)

Army chief Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha on Thursday visited the border in Kantharalak district of Si Sa Ket province, adjacent to Preah Vihear.

He visited the Suranaree Task Force and was briefed on the situation by Region 2 Army senior officers. He also inspected the Border Patrol Police operations and visited Mor E-Daeng pass and surveyed the Thai-Cambodian border area.

The army said on Wednesday that the one-day trip was intended to lift the morale of the units stationed at the border on the occasion of the New Year.

Gen Prayuth stressed that the army is giving importance to all border areas, not only the area near the temple in dispute.

Before leaving Bangkok for the northeastern province, Gen Prayuth downplayed the yellow-shirt People's Alliance for Democracy's plan to hold a major demonstration on Jan 21 to protest against the ICJ's ruling on the dispute over the border area near Preah Vihear, saying that he had no interest in the PAD.

The army chief said serving soldiers were prohibited from taking part in the PAD rally, and warned that troops who disobey his order would be punished.

Asked about another PAD rally planned for Jan 12 to 13 in the province, Gen Prayuth urged his men to pay attention to their duties and not be easily provoked and to avoid any confrontation.

Related search: Cambodia, yellow shirts, PAD, Hun Sen, Yingluck Shinawatra, Veera Somkwamkid, Ratree Pipattanapaiboon, spies, Prey Sar Prison, Phnom Penh, Preah Vihear, Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha

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