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Cambodia Denies Request To Reduce Sentences of Thai Activists

  • Chun Sakada
  • VOA Khmer

Thai Foreign Minister Surapong Tovichakchaikul, left, and Cambodian counterpart Hor Namhong, right front, attend a press conference in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, Thursday, Dec. 29, 2011.

Thai Foreign Minister Surapong Tovichakchaikul, left, and Cambodian counterpart Hor Namhong, right front, attend a press conference in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, Thursday, Dec. 29, 2011.

Cambodian officials said Thursday they will not reduce the jail sentences of two Thai activists charged with espionage, despite a request from Thailand’s foreign minister.

The Thai minister, Surapong Tovichakchaikul, made his request on an official visit to Cambodia; he also asked the two be considered for a pardon by King Norodom Sihamoni.

The two prisoners, Veera Somkwamkit and Ratree Pipatanapaiboon, are serving respective sentences of eight and six years after they were arrested on the Cambodian border in late 2010 and accused of spying and trespassing on military land in the midst of a border dispute.

The two were arrested during high tensions between the two governments. However, their relationship has steadily improved with the election of Yingluck Shinawatra, the sister of ouster premier Thaksin Shinawatra, earlier this year.

Nevertheless, in a joint press conference Thursday, Foreign Minister Hor Namhong said Cambodia would not be able to grant Surapong’s request for reduced sentences or to yet offer a pardon to the two prisoners.

“Cambodia has a law in which the two Thai prisoners must serve two-thirds of their jail terms” before they can be pardoned, he said. “However, it is possible to release the two Thai prisoners earlier, if the government of Thailand makes a request to Cambodia for a meeting to exchange prisoners as a package.”

He did not specify which Cambodian prisoners such an exchange might entail.

The two foreign ministers also discussed withdrawal of troops along the contentious border. Both have agreed in principle to an International Court order for a demilitarized zone along the border, where both sides claim a strip of land west of Preah Vihear temple.

“We both confirmed that we will implement the ICJ decision with transparency, fairness and monitoring,” Surapong told reporters.

The two ministers also agreed to speed negotiations for the joint development of offshore oil and gas blocs in an overlapping claim area.

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