Cambodia detains Thai political figures for illegal entry

Cambodia charged seven Thai citizens, among them a member of parliament close to the prime minister, with illegal entry into its territory.

Cambodia detains Thai political figures for illegal entry

Cambodia charged on Thursday seven Thai citizens, among them a member of parliament close to the prime minister, with illegal entry into its territory.

Thailand sent its foreign minister, Kasit Piromya, to Phnom Penh to seek the release of the seven following their arrest for entering a disputed border area on Wednesday.

Most of the seven are members of a Thai politial faction that has been pressing the government to take a tough stand with Cambodia over border disputes.

Cambodian prosecutor Sok Roeu told Reuters the Thais were charged with illegal entry and encroachment on Cambodia's border military zone. The offences carry a maximum sentence of 18 months in prison.

Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva called for their immediate release and said a case concerning a disputed border area should be settled out of court.

"If Cambodia wants to maintain good and smooth ties, we should stick to our commitment to talk and work together," he told reporters in Bangkok.

Most of the seven arrested men are members of the People's Alliance for Democracy (PAD), better known as the "yellow shirts", who have whipped up nationalistic sentiment over border disputes with Cambodia, which have at times spiralled into deadly skirmishes between troops on both sides.

One of the seven, Panich Vikitsreth, a member of parliament from Abhisit's ruling Democrat Party, told reporters by telephone his group had only been inspecting the border.

Thai Foreign Minister Kasit, himself a former PAD member, called for Cambodia to resolve the issue fast and said it was crucial to avoid any military flare-ups.

"Troops of both countries have worked hard to avoid problems. Conflict has not happened for some time and preventing this is our clear priority," Kasit told Cambodian reporters.

The disputed Preah Vihear temple is a nationalist symbol in both countries and has been used by the PAD to rally opposition to previous Thai governments led or backed by Thaksin.

The International Court of Justice awarded Preah Vihear to Cambodia in 1962 but Thailand lays claim to much of the land surrounding it. The yellow shirts were angered when Cambodia tried to list the temple as a World Heritage site in 2008, under its jurisdiction.

Large stretches of the Thai-Cambodian border are poorly demarcated and many border markers have been destroyed or moved during decades of conflict in Cambodia.


Reuters

Last Mod: 30 Aralık 2010, 17:52
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