Government Officials Insist On Alleged Spy’s Innocence

A working group of border, consular and military officials that was sent to Thai­land on Friday to examine the case of Ung Kimthai, a Cam­bodian man ar­­rested there last week on espionage and drug-use suspicions, has met with him and believes he is in­nocent, officials said.

On Saturday, “our consul general met him and asked him about [why he was there]. He said he was just traveling as a tourist with his friends,” said Koy Kuong, spokes­man for the Foreign Ministry. “He’s an ordinary person…[the allegation] is fabricated. It’s only lies.”

According to Mr Kuong, the consulate is now working on providing an attorney for the suspect.

Saturday’s meeting came after re­ports on Friday that three men, in­clud­ing Vietnamese and Thai nationals, were arrested in Si Sa Ket pro­vince on Tuesday afternoon on suspicion of espionage. They were al­le­gedly searching for military bunk­ers and bases.

The police “had been informed by local villagers that they were driving around the area, and the villa­gers didn’t recognize them,” said Thai military spokesman Veera­chon Sukondhadhpatipak.

Moeng Mony, administration chief at the Cambodian-Thailand border affairs department, said Mr Kimthai, 43, had entered Thailand on June 2 through the Prum Inter­na­­tional Checkpoint in Pailin pro­vince. Mr Mony said he was unsure of Mr Kimthai’s reasons for visiting but said that, once allowed in the country, Mr Kimthai was free to travel where he wished. “If Thai authorities allow him [through] he can go anywhere in Thailand.”

Thai Foreign Minister Ka­sit Pi­romya on Saturday proposed a pos­sible prisoner swap, according to the Thai news website MCOT. In Feb­ruary, Thai “yellow-shirt” activist Veera Somkwamkid and his secretary Ratree Pipatanapai­boon were jailed for espionage and related crimes.

When asked whether such a trade was being considered, Phay Siphan, spokesman for the Council of Ministers, said “no.”

“This case is completely different. In Cambodia, we have heard no grounds for them having worked for the government.”

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