PHNOM PENH, Cambodia (AP) — A Cambodian court charged seven Thais, including a member of Parliament, on Thursday with illegally crossing the border in the latest flare-up of an often-strained relationship between the neighbors.
Thailand’s Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya, who was dispatched to the Cambodian capital to negotiate the group’s release, urged Cambodian authorities to speed the legal proceedings.
“We respect the judiciary of Cambodia,” Kasit said through a translator. The ministry has said the group was inspecting the border area. “We have asked the government to complete the case as soon as possible.”
The arrests occurred Wednesday in a disputed area of the frontier in Cambodia’s northwestern Banteay Meanchey province. Among those arrested was lawmaker Panich Vikitsreth of the ruling Democrat party, a former aide to Kasit at the Foreign Ministry.
The Phnom Penn Municipal Court charged them with illegal entry and illegally entering a military base along the border, crimes that carry penalties of up to six months and one year, respectively, said deputy prosecutor Sok Roeun.
Cambodia’s Foreign Minister Hor Namhong said the group crossed from Thailand’s eastern Sa Kaew province and walked some 500 yards (meters) into Cambodian territory.
“They will not be released until the normal court procedure is completed,” he said after meeting with Kasit.
Relations have been contentious for years, with the main focus on a border dispute near the 11th century Preah Vihear temple that has led to a series of small but sometimes deadly skirmishes.