Court hears bail bid today

Veera and his secretary 'unlikely to be released'

PHNOM PENH : Cambodia's Appeal Court is expected to decide today whether to grant bail to five Thais being held in Prey Sar prison on trespassing charges.

Road block: Members of the Thai Patriots Network and Santi Asoke sect block Phitsanulok Road beside Government House to build makeshift shelters for a prolonged rally. The group says it will petition His Majesty the King to oust the Democrat-led government for failing to obtain the release of seven Thai detainees in Cambodia. PATTANAPONG HIRUNARD

The five are scheduled to arrive at the court at 7am and are expected to be taken to a chamber to await the court decision on their bail request, said Pon Savath, the chief clerk of the court.

Mr Pon said the media would be allowed in the courtroom but would be barred from taking photographs.

Three judges have been appointed to consider the bail request and they are expected to arrive at their decision within two to three hours.

The submission to the Appeal Court follows a ruling by the Phnom Penh Municipal Court on Friday against granting bail to the five Thais.

Mr Pon said the five could apply to the Supreme Court if the Appeal Court today upheld the lower court's decision.

The five Thai nationals still in detention are Veera Somkhwamkid, a coordinator of the Thai Patriots Network, a splinter group of the yellow shirt People's Alliance for Democracy; Ratree Pipatanapaiboon, Mr Veera's secretary; Samdin Lertbutr and Tainae Mungmajon, members of the Santi Asoke cult; and Kitchaponthorn Chusanasevi, an aide to Democrat MP for Bangkok Panich Vikitsreth.

The five are among seven Thai nationals held by Cambodian authorities after they allegedly crossed the border into Cambodia on Dec29 last year.

Cambodia has accused the seven, who include Mr Panich and his secretary Narumol Chitvarattana, of trespassing on its territory and illegally entering a military area in Banteay Meanchey opposite Thailand's Sa Kaeo province.

The Phnom Penh Municipal Court decided on Thursday to grant bail to Mr Panich and Ms Narumol for health reasons. The two have been given shelter at the Thai ambassador's residence inside the Thai embassy in Phnom Penh.

The seven could face up to 18 months in jail if they are found guilty of the charges.

Mr Veera and Ms Ratree have also been charged with espionage and could face a maximum of 10 years in prison.

Diplomatic sources close to the case in Phnom Penh said it was possible that three of the five Thais still in detention could be released on bail this week.

Mr Veera and Ms Ratree are likely to be kept in prison because they have entered Cambodia illegally several times and are facing more serious charges, the sources said.

Cambodian authorities want assurances from Mr Veera that he would not again become involved in provocative behaviour.

The sources quoted Cambodian officials as saying Mr Veera had submitted written assurances in the past when he had been arrested saying he would not stray again into Cambodian territory.

The sources said it was up to the Cambodian court whether those granted bail would be allowed to leave the country and return to Thailand.

Mr Pon said: "In my opinion, this is not a big case. It is a common case. Every suspect, regardless of their nationality, has the right to seek bail if they are arrested in Cambodia."

He said the two Cambodian lawyers representing the Thais were simply following the law in seeking bail for their clients.

If the five were released on bail, they would have to put up money as surety. They would not be allowed to leave Cambodia until the Phnom Penh Municipal Court decided whether to convict them.

Mr Pon said Cambodian law required that the trial of the seven Thais must be completed within six months.

Ros Aun, one of the lawyers representing the Thais, went to the Appeal Court yesterday to follow up the request for bail.

Mr Ros said he was still unsure whether the court would grant the bail request.
From Bangkok


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