PM optimistic detained Thais will be freed by Cambodia; urges army chief to be patient

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BANGKOK, Jan 15 -- Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva said Saturday he is optimistic that all seven Thai detainees being held in Phnom Penh will be free on bail soon, yet urged army chief Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha to both use restraint and speed up the process of resolving border problems with the neighbouring country amid slanders by the so-called Thailand Patriots Network (TPN) group.

The group said that senior Thai military officers were somehow profiting from the border troubles and the slow action in helping the detainees.

“I understand the army chief’s feeling," the prime minister said."I wish to ask him to be patient.”.

On Friday, TPN activists rallied at Thailand's defense ministry, calling for the resignation of the prime minister, Foreign Affairs Minister Kasit Piromya and Defense Minister Prawit Wongsuwan.

They charged that senior military officers chose to stay idle regarding the jailed Thais as they believed the seven were on Thai soil when they were taken into custody by the Cambodian authorities and that several Thai military officers had received payoffs on the border.

Urging Gen Prayuth to be patient, Mr Abhisit said he had ordered Defense Minister Gen Prawit to help resolve the problem of Thai villagers who have rightfully possession of land deeds, but work near the disputed border. The prime minister was responding to concerns that the border problem might affect Thailand’s sovereignty.

Asda Jayanama, the new chairman of Thai-Cambodian Joint Boundary Commission (JBC), went to Cambodia earlier this week for talks with his Cambodian counterparts on the border problem, said Mr Abhisit, adding that he was told the talks went smoothly.

At this stage finding ways to return the seven detainees is the most important issue, Mr Abhisit said.

The Thais were captured by Cambodian soldiers on Dec 29. At present, five are still in custody and have been denied bail by the Cambodian court while two, including Panich Vikitsreth, an MP representing Bangkok and member of the ruling Democrat Party, have been released on bail but are not allowed to leave the country, as they must attend court hearings when they take place.

Some Democrat MPs plan to go to Phnom Penh to visit Mr Panich. The prime minister, however, said he had instructed them to wait until the situation has improved as the Cambodian court announced Friday that the entire issue should be resolved in the near future.

Mr Abhisit said he hoped that the remaining five Thais would also be freed on bail as their lawyers are working to help release them. (MCOT online news)


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