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Cambodia acknowledges Thai request for extradition of lese majeste fugitives

Oct 27. 2016
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By The Nation

Cambodia has become the first country to acknowledge Thailand’s request for extradition of lese majeste fugitives amid a push by authorities in Bangkok to bring them back.

Phnom Penh said it had received a request from Thailand to have three Thai fugitives facing lese majeste charges extradited. 

“Now the competent authorities are processing this request, so it is not the right time to issue detailed information,” Cambodian Foreign Ministry spokesman Chum Sounry was quoted by Phnom Penh Post as saying yesterday. 

The Cambodian official declined to say if his country would allow the extradition but highlighted the extradition treaty signed by Thailand and Cambodia in 2001. “The two countries have an extradition treaty, and Cambodian authorities are considering the request,” he said.

Legal experts said enforcement of the extradition treaty is complicated as it exempts political crimes and would not be allowed unless the laws of both countries recognise it as a crime. 

A Cambodian legal expert said that insulting a king is not a crime under Cambodia’s penal code. “We can’t extradite any accused unless both sides have an act saying it is a crime, according to the Criminal Code,” the expert, Sam Ouen, said. “If it is not a crime in Cambodia, we cannot send those people [to Thailand].”

Cambodia had rejected a previous Thai request, in 2009, for the extradition of former Thai prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra as the accusation against the ex-premier was considered political in nature. 

The Thai government has launched a campaign to track down lese majeste fugitives. It recently sent formal requests to seven countries, seeking the extradition of 19 fugitives. Violators face a jail term of up to 15 years.

The government has recently been concerned about increased defamation of the monarchy since the passing of His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej on October 13. There have been more than 20 cases of alleged lese majeste since then. Most the fugitives have been living in exile for many years. 

Deputy Prime Minister and Defence Minister Prawit Wongwusan yesterday insisted that the Thai government was in contact with foreign authorities to capture the lese majeste offenders residing overseas.

Thai attempts have been going on despite a lack of agreements with foreign countries on the handing over of such fugitives, Prawit admitted. 

This could be due to lack of extradition agreements between Thailand and destination countries such as New Zealand where alleged lese majeste violator, Aekkaphob Luara aka Tang Archiva, has lived since 2014 as a refugee.

The military, police and intelligence have also been constantly active to watch out for any acts deemed as insulting to the monarchy, he added.

Meanwhile, executives of the company that operates the Line chat application have agreed to cooperate with the government over messages deemed insulting to the monarchy, Deputy PM Prajin Juntong said yesterday. Prajin said he had discussions with executives of Line Thailand about measures to deal with Line users posting messages deemed insulting to the monarchy and threatening to national security.

Line also promised to set up a special working group that would include its executives in Japan to consider any special requests from the government, according to Prajin.

He said Thai authorities would also discuss with representatives from the popular social media service Facebook. 

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