Thailand could violate the terms of its extradition treaty with Cambodia if it returns two men accused of defaming Prime Minister Hun Sen and inciting others to commit crimes, observers said Thursday.
National Police Commissioner Hok Lundy said Nov 4 that Thai authorities have agreed to arrest Ear Channa, deputy secretary-general of the Student Movement for Democracy, and Man Nath, president of the Cambodian Independent Civil Servants Association, for defaming Hun Sen over the supplemental border agreement with Vietnam.
Cambodian Defenders Project Executive Director Sok Sam Oeun said the case was political and “according to this agreement, the Thai government cannot extradite them.”
The agreement states that extradition will not take place if “the host country considers the offense a political one.”
The only political offense exceptions are “assassination or attempted assassination of the head of state, head of government, or their family members,” the treaty states in Chapter Three.
The host country must reject an extradition request if it “has clear reasons to prove that the proposed extradition by the proposing party is to use legal procedures [against] or to torture the accused because of race, religion, nationality or the political views of the accused.”
Om Yentieng, an adviser to Hun Sen, said the government is fully aware of the treaty’s text.
“[The government is] not ignorant of the law,” Om Yentieng said. “We understand the treaty. We did not request their extradition because of political issues,” he said.
Justice Minister Ang Vong Vathana said the charges against the pair are criminal rather than political.
“They have been charged for trying to cause problems in the country,” he said. “They were trying to provoke other people.”
Sok Sam Oeun said he expected that the case would be sent to the Thai courts, which will issue a ruling on whether the case is political and whether they can be extradited.
Sam Rainsy Party activist Sok Yoeun fled to Thailand in 1998 after being accused of taking part in a failed rocket attack on Hun Sen’s convoy in Siem Reap province. Arrested in Thailand, Sok Yoeun spent four years in prison amid lengthy extradition proceedings. He was eventually granted asylum to Finland.
“The case will be reviewed by the executive and judicial branches of both governments,” said Thai Ambassador Piyawat Niyomrerks.