Despite Friday’s pledge by Prime Minister Hun Sen to allow two terrorism convicts to serve out their sentences in their native Thailand, the men’s transfer to Thai prisons will require the conclusion of long-stalled negotiations on a prisoner exchange treaty, according to the Justice Ministry.
At a meeting on Friday, Mr Hun Sen told visiting Thai premier Abhisit Vejjajiva that he would allow the return of two Thai men convicted in 2004 of planning to attack Western embassies here.
In a Phnom Penh trial criticized for irregularities, Muhammad Yalaludin Mading and Abdul Azi Haji Chiming were given life sentences in 2004 for their roles in an alleged conspiracy to attack Western targets in the capital.
Thailand and Cambodia signed an extradition treaty for criminal suspects in 2001. However Ith Rady, undersecretary of state, said this does not apply to convicts.
“Transferring a prisoner is not done through an extradition treaty. It needs to be made through another agreement,” he said Wednesday.
The Thai and Cambodian foreign ministers in 2005 agreed in principle on the terms of a treaty but never referred the matter to their respective justice ministries.
According to Mr Rady, the recent border clashes with Thailand have preempted a renewal of discussions.
Thai Embassy First Secretary Kamrob Palawatwichai declined to comment.
Officials at the Interior Ministry’s general department of prisons said Wednesday they believed the number of Cambodians jailed in Thailand to number in the hundreds, but that fewer than 20 Thais are incarcerated here.
“There are 18 Thais, including these two men. Six of them are women,” said Prisons Department General Director Heng Hak.
Foreign Ministry spokesman Koy Kuong said Wednesday that Cambodia has concluded prisoner exchange treaties with Australia in 2006 and India in 2007 and is currently working on similar agreements with the United Kingdom and Ecuador.