Friday, January 14, 2011

Editorial; Seven Thais Detained for Trespassing and Intrusion Must Face Cambodia’s Legal Process to go through its motions

Some Thai ultra-nationalists, including the Thai Yellow Shirt members are trying to mislead their own people and the world public by insisting that Cambodia is politicizing the case of the seven Thais who had intruded into sovereign Cambodian territory intentionally. They are deliberately and systematically embarking on a mission to mislead and hoodwink people that the Thais were arrested on their side of the border when the detained Thais had self incriminating evidence which proves beyond doubt that they had intentionally and deliberately trespassed into Cambodian territory.
The arrested seven includes a Democratic Bangkok lawmaker Panich Vikitsreth. The Thais cannot even get their act together. While the yellow shirts claimed the seven were arrested in Thai territory, others argued that the group, including a leading member of the Thailand Patriot Network, Veera Somkwamkid, was apprehended on the disputed area.
Irrespective of what the misled and misinformed Thai agent provocateurs are claiming and spreading malicious rumors,  the cold hard truth remains and cannot be changed or altered to suit political expediency or change its factual data to suit Thailand’s internal and domestic political agenda. The facts are indisputable. Video and documentary evidence, including that of the Thai military themselves that the seven had intruded well into Cambodian territory and had even ignored Thai military efforts to stop.
The fact remains that the seven had intruded not meters but deep inside into sovereign Cambodian territory on December 29, 2010 and had videotaped themselves while doing so, a self incriminating act which cannot be disputed as witnessed the world over, including Thailand. To be explicitly clear, the seven they were apprehended 1.2 km inside Cambodian territory in O’ Beichoan commune, O’Chrov district, Banteay Meanchey province.
They did not only enter Cambodia illegally, they also trespassed into a Cambodian military base there. For those who are unsure of what had transpired and happened with the seven, they should take steps to learn more about the factual situation on the ground before making noises as empty vessels makes the most noise. Thus, it is worthwhile to recall the video clip of Panich’s conversation with his secretary alias Q, quoted verbatim as saying “we are now in Cambodian territory but do not tell anyone else “or let” others know about it, only the PM knows. Tell him to be quiet about this. If there is something happening, I will coordinate/make contact. Tell him (PM) we have crossed.” In one part of the third video, Veera said “Let’s go, if we go there, we will get arrested for sure.” These video footages, which have been well published by national and foreign media, were captured by one of the seven Thais who was detained in Cambodia. Their activities were also confirmed by Thai Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya who said that the seven were inside Cambodian when they were arrested. Cambodia’s chairman of the joint border committee, Var Kimhong, said that the area visited by the seven Thais had already been demarcated based on the 1904 and 1907 Treaty.
So there was no doubt that Cambodian forces or authorities had crossed the border into Thailand and grabbed the seven just to detain at Prey Sar prison because, if the Cambodians were to have done that, the roles would have been reversed and Cambodian authorities/forces would have been in Thai prisons and accused of trespassing. The group, which was led by Veera and Panich, are the main instigators of anti-Cambodia actions and should blame themselves for violating Cambodia’s sovereignty. Now the ball is squarely in the court’s hand and the seven Thai suspects, including journalists, have to face Cambodia’s law and legal procedures. This cannot be circumvented or violated.
The seven have been charged with illegal entry under the immigration law and fraudulently entering a Cambodian military area under the newly enacted penal code. If convicted they would get up to 18 months imprisonment in addition to  up to $500 in fine each.
The trial court of Phnom Penh also charged Veera Somkwamkid and his secretary Ratree Pipatanapaiboon with espionage given the fact that they intruded into a sensitive Cambodian military zone an attempt to collect information that could affect Cambodia’s national defense. The offence of espionage carries up to 10 years imprisonment if convicted.
Although the suspects admitted that they were on Cambodia’s land, according to their lawyers and investigating judge, still some Thai nationalists did not accept the truth since they have misguided political tendencies. These deficiencies, stroked by foolish ultra nationalism prompted them to hold mass rallies to pressure the government to secure the release of the detainees. My words for the Thai ultra nationalists is that the political move by deliberately mixing public opinion with politics, including petitions earlier this month to the United Nations office representative in Bangkok, will not help you to solve this problem given the fact that the case is purely related to Cambodia’s immigration and penal law, which has nothing to do with the international issue.
We are sure the Thais and others would have heard what Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen said “no one can intervene in the judicial system, neither the government nor foreigners, nor Cambodians”. So it is best for the misguided Thais to refrain from internationalizing and politicizing the issue and leave it to Cambodia’s court to finish with the judiciary procedures and allow the law to take its due course.
It would also be worthwhile to recall that PM Hun Sen said that the Thai suspects could not expect early release if they are found guilty. However, a golden opportunity for the convicts is that Cambodia’s government could consider whether they should be pardoned or not after the convicts will have serve two thirds of their sentences. So leave the court to fully exercise its legal power, which must be respected and no one should attempt to intervene in the judicial system. Cambodian court procedures are not different from those of the Thai courts and that no one should put pressure on the court and I personally am of the view that the case of the seven Thai suspects does not affect the bilateral relations of our country. Even the Thai Prime Minister has declared that he would not comment much since it is currently under consideration of Cambodia’s judicial system.
I am however surprised by the comment of the Thai New Politics Party secretary-general who was quoted in The Bangkok Post on Jan 5 that the different set of facts over the seven Thais could benefit Cambodia. This is ridiculous to me because the Thais themselves had created the current problems and instead of showing remorse, were trying to take the upper hand on Cambodia, meaning that the Thais had intentionally intruded into Cambodia and even had the audacity to inform the Cambodian border officials ahead.
I am convinced that the case will not reignite the diplomatic row between the two ASEAN neighbors and I hope our two countries will maintain good bilateral relations for peaceful co-existence while protecting each other’s rights and sovereignty. As Abhisit said that it is the government’s duty to do everything possible to bring the seven Thais back to Thailand without any effect on the country’s sovereignty. Now you can see that even the Thai PM assured his people that they would be O.K, so maybe the Yellow Shirt activists do not have to worry much by organizing or holding rallies from time to time as this is a clear waste of time and a weak attempt to pressurize Cambodia’s courts.
At the same time these Thai Yellow Shirt activists and their allies should stop their rallies as such acts will instigate social unrest which would not bring any benefit to your country. If I were the Yellow Shirt, I would rather focus on my daily business and wait and see how the Cambodian court will rule at the end of the day. You should not worry about your people who are being detained in Cambodia because they are well treated like Cambodian detainees as you have seen that relatives and friends of the detainees and Thai veteran politicians have been allowed to visit them in the detention centre while the court continues investigating the case. Their rights are fully respected by Cambodia. The court is merely doing its job and they would receive a fair trial. Last but not least only the accused can tell why they were there. Either they intentionally intruded into the area or were told to do so—given the fact that Thailand’s Prime Minister Abhisit was aware that the Democrat law maker Panich had gone to the border area of Prachin Buri. But what made Panich lead the team to Sa Kaeo province instead. This is a question which only the Thais can answer. Even Panic himself told Abhist’s secretary over cell phone that “it is difficult for the (Thai) government to help when they were arrested if he and six others were in Cambodia”.
Panich, who was formerly an assistant to the foreign minister, is well aware about the border issue given his past work which dealt with the disputed border with Cambodia. He was telling the whole world that he had crossed Cambodia’s border intentionally. For Veera he had reportedly entered Cambodia’s territory before in the past as to what Cambodia’s Foreign Minsister Hor Namhong elucidated by saying that Veera had illegally crossed into the same area twice before in July and September last year, but did not penetrated as deeply into Cambodian territory until his group was arrested in late December. So what one can ask what is his real agenda behind his illegal and unlawful entry into Cambodia?

By Ek Madra
Ek Madra is a Cambodian roaming journalist,
Tel: (855) 12 906 563

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