Monday, November 28, 2011

By Buth Reaksmey Kongkea

The Court of Appeal yesterday postponed the hearing of convicted Thai spies Veera Somkwamkid and Ratree Pipapatanapaiboon due to their lack of defense lawyers and Thai interpreters.

Samrith Sophal, a judge at the Court of Appeal, said that the duo’s appeal hearing, which was set to open yesterday, has been postponed to November 28.

“Their case is criminal and [they] must have lawyers to defend them for their hearing. Due to their lack of defense lawyers and interpreters, it is decided to postpone their appealing hearing to November 28,” he told reporters yesterday at the Court of Appeal.

Veera Somkwamkid and Ratree Pipapatanapaiboon were not present at court yesterday. They could not be reached for comments.

Thai Foreign Affairs spokesman Thani Thongpakdee said the defendants are looking after their own defense and declined to comment further.

Pich Vicheka, a former defense lawyer for the two, said that he was not aware of their appeal hearing because he had not been hired to defend them for their appeal.

“I am now no longer involved with their cases,” he said. “I could not comment about their appeal.”

Chiv Song Hak, president of the Bar Association of the Kingdom of Cambodia, said that if the two convicted spies are unable to pay for their defense and cannot find lawyers, they can request that the court ask for lawyers from his association.

“The Bar Association of the Kingdom of Cambodia is [happy] to send its lawyers to provide legal services for every suspect if they do not have money to hire lawyers or cannot find defense lawyers. If they need our lawyers, they can request it to the courts,” he told the Post yesterday.

In regard to the lack of interpreters, he added that those can also be requested through the court.

Veera Somkwamkid and Ratree Pipapatanapaiboon were arrested by Cambodian authorities on December 28, 2010, along with other five Thai nationals after illegally crossing into Cambodia near O’Bei Chean Village, in Banteay Meanchey province.

On February 1, Veera Somkwamkid was sentenced by the Phnom Penh Municipal Court to a total of 8 years in jail and fined 1.5 million riel (or about US$367), while Ratree Pipapatanapaiboon was convicted to 6 years in jail and fined 1.2 million riel (or $294).

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