“That area the seven people were walking on is Thai territory, but Cambodian soldiers have been taking control of that area,” said Mr Karoon, who has led a recent protest in Bangkok over the arrests. Speaking through an interpreter, he claimed to have evidence proving the seven were arrested in Thailand
Asked about an Internet video clip showing Mr Panich saying before his arrest that he was in Cambodia, Mr Karoon said Mr Panich only said that because the land had been “taken” by Cambodia.
Mr Karoon said he and the rest of the group had traveled to Phnom Penh to provide “legal advice” to the detained Thais. He said they hoped to visit them in the next few days.
Koy Kuong, spokesman for the Foreign Ministry, yesterday dismissed Mr Karoon’s claims about the border.
“If they were not in Cambodian territory, why would [Thai Foreign Minister] Kasit [Piromya] declare they entered Cambodian territory?” Mr Kuong said. “Cambodian soldiers could not arrest Thais in their own territory. Cambodians would be arrested before they arrested Thai nationals.”
Mr Kuong said 11 Thais, including Thai Embassy officials, were scheduled to visit the seven Thai prisoners today, although he said he did not know their identities.
The visiting Thais also included Thai Patriot Network member ML Walwipha Charoonroj, of the Thai Khadi Research Institute at Bangkok’s Thammasat University, and lawyer Nataporn Toprayoon, who reportedly represented yellow shirts involved in the 2008 seizure of Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi Airport.
Judge Ke Sakhorn, deputy president of Phnom Penh Municipal Court, said yesterday that all seven detained Thais had admitted crossing into Cambodia during interviews with an investigating judge.
“They all accept they were in Cambodian territory,” Judge Sakhorn said, adding that a trial date had yet to be set
Ros Oun, one of two defense lawyers hired by the Thai government, also said his clients, who include Mr Panich, had acknowledged crossing into Cambodia unintentionally.
Separately, villager Lang Sombath, 28, was shot dead by Thai soldiers after illegally crossing the border from Banteay Meanchey province Friday afternoon, according to Thma Puok district deputy governor Diep Chhuon.
Meanwhile, Thai authorities yesterday released 13 villagers who were arrested Friday after crossing the border into Thailand from Oddar Meanchey province to look for wild vegetables, officials said.
(Additional reporting by Saing Soenthrith)