Thai National Claims to Have Planted Mines Targeting Cambodian Border Patrols

The Military Court in Phnom Penh on Friday heard a case against a Thai national who has been detained in military prison for almost one year on charges of planting landmines along the Thai border in Oddar Meanchey province’s Anlong Veng district.

Suphap Wongsa Prakna, 39, was arrested in February 2009 by Cambodian soldiers based along the border after he was allegedly caught on Cambodian territory carrying a Russian-made anti-personnel landmine near the former residence of Khmer Rouge warlord Ta Mok, Presiding Judge Pork Pan said in court on Friday. Judge Pan claimed that Mr Suphap intended to kill Cambodian soldiers with the deadly device.

“There is enough evidence to prove that he really did plant mines on the Cambodian side of the border,” Mr Pan told the court. “He also confessed to the crime and admitted to the court that he had committed the crime.”

Before a three-judge panel, officers of the court displayed evidence including the landmine itself and strings used to defuse it that were confiscated from Mr Suphap.

Mr Suphap alleged in court that senior Thai soldiers had paid him between $60 and $90 on two separate occasions in early 2009 to plant landmines in Cambodian territory in the hopes of killing Cambodian soldiers on border patrols.

“The first time, I planted two land mines but they did not explode, and the second time I planted one mine in the same area,” Mr Suphap said in court through a translator. “I received around 10,000 baht [$300] from planting land mines.”

The Military Court charged Mr Suphap with attempted murder with an explosive device, harming national security, and illegally entering Cambodia, said Teang Prakod, deputy prosecutor of the military court.

The court will announce the verdict on Friday next week, Judge Pan said. If found guilty, Mr Suphap could be given 10 years to life in prison.

Sam Sokong, defending lawyer for the Thai national appealed to the court for a minimum punishment for his client because of Mr Suphap’s full and frank confession.

“The case is in the Cambodian court, and it’s up to the Cambodian court to decide, so we’re not going to comment on that,” Thai government spokesman Panitan Wattanayagorn said on Friday.

            (Additional reporting by Julia Wallace)


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