The Office of the Ombudsman yesterday held a discussion on how it can help push for the release of political activist Veera Somkwamkid, who was given an eight-year prison sentence by a Cambodian court over espionage charges.
He was among seven Thai nationals arrested in December 2010 for illegally crossing a disputed Thai-Cambodian border area.
Veera is the leader of the Thailand Patriot Network, a splinter group of the yellow-shirt People’s Alliance for Democracy (PAD) movement. Five members of the group were released in January 2011, but an additional, more serious charge of espionage was slapped on Veera and his assistant Ratree Pipatanapaiboon.
Veera was sentenced to eight years in prison, while Ratree was given six, but was granted a royal pardon in early 2013 after spending two years and a month in Cambodia’s Prey Sar prison.
After that, Veera’s wife Pitampai filed a petition with the Ombudsman asking help with the release of her husband, who cannot appeal the sentence.
The meeting, led by Ombudsman spokesman Raksakecha Chaechai, included representatives from other organisations such as the National Human Rights Commission, the Office of Human Rights Protection, and the Corrections Department.
Raksakecha said moves to get Veera released from Cambodia and detained in Thailand had failed because espionage is considered a threat to national security.
There are two legal paths that can be taken to help Veera, he said. One is to request that his sentence be commuted by nine to 12 months as part of Cambodia’s religious festival at around the time of Loy Krathong. The other channel would be to seek a royal pardon, in which case Veera has to serve two-thirds or five years of his sentence.
Raksakecha said it was really up to the Thai Foreign Ministry to decide whether it should seek help from the National Council for Peace and Order to negotiate Veera’s release with the Cambodian government.