4 granted bail but Veera stays in jail

Phnom Penh, Cambodia - Cambodia's Appeal Court has granted bail to another four Thais being held for trespassing on Cambodian territory, but it is refusing to free the last and key leader of the group, Veera Somkwamkid.

The four released on bail yesterday were Ratree Pipatanapaiboon, Mr Veera's secretary; Kojpollathorn Chusanasevi, an aide to Democrat Party MP for Bangkok Panich Vikitsreth; and Samdin Lertbutr and Tainae Mungmajon, members of the Santi Asoke sect and close aides of yellow shirt leader Chamlong Srimuang.

The court started considering the bail appeal at 7.30am and spent about an hour before making its decision.

Mr Veera appeared frustrated when he emerged from the courtroom and said he had been denied bail.

"I will go to the Supreme Court and will fight the case to the end," Mr Veera shouted to reporters as he was taken to a prison van parked in front of the court.

The Thai embassy in Phnom Penh put up one million riel, or about 10,000 baht, as bail surety for each of the four suspects freed.

The four were ordered by the Appeal Court not to leave the country until the Phnom Penh Municipal Court had completed their trial.

The Thai ambassador to Phnom Penh, Prasas Prasasvinitchai, said the court refused to grant bail to Mr Veera because it did not want him to create problems in Cambodia. Mr Veera faces an additional charge of espionage. The court was also concerned about his safety.

Ms Ratree, who also faces the spying charge, was granted bail because the court believed her release would not affect the investigation. Ms Ratree also convinced the court she would not flee if she was released.

"We respect the court's decision and will follow the rule of law of Cambodia," the ambassador said.

The Appeal Court's decision brings the total number of Thai nationals freed on bail to six. Mr Panich and Narumol Chitvarattana, an activist with the Thai Patriots Network, were released on bail last Thursday.

The seven Thais were arrested and charged with illegal entry and trespassing on Cambodian soil on Dec 29 last year. The arrests were made in Cambodia's Banteay Meanchey province opposite Sa Kaeo in Thailand.

The Thai embassy is now providing temporary shelter for the six while they await trial in Phnom Penh.

Mr Samdin said he had no intention of trespassing on Cambodian land.

"I'm now very happy. After this, I will have to wait for the law to take its course," he said.

Mr Tainae said he had to thank the court for releasing him and the other Thais. He said he entered Cambodian territory by accident.

"I miss my kids and my wife so much and want to meet them as quickly as possible," he said.

Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva said yesterday he expected the case of the seven Thais to be wrapped up this week.

"Things have become clearer on the Cambodian side. And a verdict is to be handed down soon. So the case should be finalised this week," he said.

Mr Abhisit said he had talked to Mr Samdin and gave him moral support.

However, he admitted that it was possible the bail process for Mr Veera would not be finalised until a ruling was handed down.

Wilaiwan Somkwamkid, Mr Veera's mother, plans to visit her son in jail in Cambodia after his bail request was denied yesterday.

Ms Wilaiwan, who earlier paid a visit to Mr Veera in Prey Sar prison, said she would take medication to Mr Veera who suffers from gout.

"My son insists he won't accept a Cambodian court ruling because he hasn't done anything wrong," she said.