Thailand’s prime minister yesterday demanded the immediate release of seven Thais, including one ruling party politician, who have been detained by Cambodian troops near the countries’ disputed border.
The seven, including Democrat Party lawmaker Panich Vikitsreth and members of the royalist “Yellow Shirt” movement, were due to appear in a court in Phnom Penh yesterday on charges of illegally entering Cambodia a day earlier.
“Cambodia must release all seven Thais immediately,” Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva told reporters. “Cambodia should not take this case to court as it will further complicate the issue.”
He said the Thai foreign minister would travel to Cambodia to meet with his counterpart there later yesterday for talks on the issue.
Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen said on Wednesday the seven would be charged and put in jail to await trial.
The two countries have a long-standing dispute over their border, which is not fully demarcated, in part because it is littered with landmines left over from decades of conflict in Cambodia.
Relations between the two countries have been strained following a series of deadly border clashes in July 2008 over land surrounding the 11th-century Khmer Empire Preah Vihear temple after it was granted UN World Heritage status.
Deputy Thai Prime Minister Suthep Thaugsuban, however, acknowledged that the seven Thais were on Cambodian territory when arrested.
“Panich and his entourage passed the border police checkpoint and border police followed them by car to ask them to return, but they were already on Cambodian soil,” Suthep said.
Additional reporting by staff writer