Foreign Minister Surapong Towichukchaikul yesterday credited Friday's release of nationalist activist Ratree Pipattanapaibul to Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra.
Yingluck’s talks with Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen last year led to the release, “as had been promised by Samdech Hun Sen,” Surapong said, using the Khmer honorary title used by the long-time leader.
Surapong, who is concurrently a deputy premier, also thanked the government of Cambodia for allowing Ratree to go free.
The foreign minister said the Thai government would also seek to help Veera Somkwamkid, head of the Thai Patriots Network arrested by Cambodian soldiers along with Ratree and other Thai nationals while inspecting a border area in 2010.
“The government will find ways to help him in an appropriate manner,” Surapong said.
He said the government did not rule out the possibility of asking for Veera to serve the remainder of his jail term in Thailand.
“We will have to raise this matter with the Cambodians. We will do our utmost about this matter,” he said, adding that there could be some problem as Veera’s case was security-related, and not just an ordinary criminal offence.
Veera and Ratree were sentenced to eight years and six years in prison, respectively, by a Cambodian court in 2011 for spying and trespassing in a military zone.
Ratree was released on pardon and Veera saw his jail term reduced by six months. The pardon was granted to mark the cremation of late Cambodian king Norodom Sihanouk.
Just hours after being released from a Cambodian jail on Friday, Ratree flew back to Bangkok with the help of the Thai Embassy in Phnom Penh. She arrived at the Suvarnabhumi Airport on Friday night and was welcomed by her family and some 100 members of the Thai Patriots Network and Santi Asoke Buddhist sect. Many well-wishers carried placards with messages welcoming her back.
It was a tearful reunion with family and friends for Ratree, who had been jailed for over two years.
She was due to spend the weekend resting at home and would later have a medical check-up, according to her niece Narisa Thong-ngoen. Ratree was very tired due to the long time in jail, her niece added.
In a related development, Deputy Prime Minister Phongthep Thepkanjana will next Tuesday lead a team of Thai legal experts to meet with foreign consultants in London to discuss how to fight the legal case with Cambodia in the International Court of Justice, according to a source. The advice will be used in Thailand’s final verbal statement to be given to the court during the hearing in April.