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Analysts See Royal Pardon for Arrested Thais

Thai activists Veera Somkwamkid, second left, a core leader of Yellow Shirts and Panich Vikitsreth, a member of Parliment of the ruling Democrat party, second right, are escorted by Cambodian court security personnel at Phnom Penh Municipal Court.

While Prime Minister Hun Sen has ruled out a political release for seven Thais arrested for illegal entry, two analysts say a royal pardon after their trial is a possibility.

The seven Thais, including a member of parliament, are facing a potential prison sentence of 18 months total for illegal entry and trespassing in a military area.

“My opinion is that the first step must be through the court,” said Ros Chantraboth, a historian at the Royal Academy. “After the court's prosecution, based on a suggestion of friendship for both countries, [Prime Minister] Hun Sen will request from [King Norodom Sihamoni] their amnesty and release.”

Sok Touch, rector of Khemarak University, said first the judicial system must be allowed to work before diplomatic negotiations.

“Cambodia should show its willingness to use the court system perfectly, and after that open political negotiation,” he said. “As we know, the monarch has the privilege of giving pardons.”

Both analysts criticized the Thai courts, which do not typically try Cambodians caught crossing the border illegally. A third analyst added that the arrests may cause pause for some Thai nationalist groups wanting to cross the border or enter disputed territory for the purpose of protest.

A lengthy armed standoff along the border near Preah Vihear temple was sparked in July 2008 when demonstrators entered a disputed area to protest the listing of the temple as a World Heritage site.