Prisoners Languish in Thailand Despite Treaty

The National Assembly ratified an extradition treaty with Laos on Wed­nesday, even as it criticized Thailand for not respecting a similar treaty the two countries signed four years ago.

Senior CPP lawmaker Cheam Yeap lead the charge by accusing Thai officials of detaining Cambo­dians who illegally immigrated to Thailand for work.

“The treaty has not been implemented” by Thailand, Cheam Yeap said, before urging the Min­is­try of Foreign Affairs to take more active steps to secure the re­turn of Cambodians arrested in Thai­land.

He also accused Thai officials of using violence and extorting money from those caught sneaking into Thailand to find jobs, saying two of his cousins were amongst those allegedly beaten.

Foreign Affairs Minister Hor Nam­­hong said many Cambo­dians are being hired to take drugs into Thailand and that 12 Cam­bodians, in­­cluding two sisters convicted in 2001 for drug smuggling, are currently awaiting execution in the coun­try.

The Cambodian government and several NGOs sent letters to Thai King Bhumibol Adulyadej and the Thai government in No­vem­ber asking for the sisters’ sentence to be reduced to life in pri­son, but Hor Namhong said they have not received a reply.

He said the ministry plans to discuss the issue with Thailand to see whether a new agreement, in which prisoners from the two coun­tries could be exchanged and serve lighter sentences, might be reached.

Hor Namhong’s officials were not spared criticism themselves during the Assembly session.

Co-Minister of Interior Prince Norodom Sirivudh accused Cam­bodia’s ambassadors to Thailand and Malaysia of ignoring the plights of their countrymen.

“The Cambodian prisoners are being ignored,” he said.

The Thai Embassy declined com­ment on Wednesday.

Lawmaker Monh Saphan said the treaty with Laos will provide for the extradition of criminals who are sentenced to more than one year in prison. Besides Thai­land, the government has a similar treaty with China.

(Additional reporting by Lee Berthiaume)

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