Ratree Pipattanapaiboon, who had been imprisoned on espionage charges since 2010, shed tears of joy when her six-year sentence came to an early end on Friday thanks to a Royal Pardon by King Sihamoni, who has lessened scores of jail terms and released hundreds of Cambodian prisoners to mark the cremation of his late father Norodom Sihanouk.
Addressing members of the Thai media who gathered at Phnom Penh’s Prey Sar prison to cover the release, Ms. Ratree spoke of her more than two-and-a-half years in jail for crossing the Cambodian border illegally, and then entering a restricted military area in Banteay Menachey province as part of a protest by ultra-nationalist Thai “yellow-shirts.”
She was arrested, charged and convicted along with her boss, senior yellow-shirt activist Veera Somkwamkid, whose sentence of eight years in jail was reduced by six moths on Friday.
Ms. Ratree’s release and Mr. Veera’s reduction in sentence were granted after Prime Minister Hun Sen had asked the Justice Ministry for their release earlier this month, and were not related to wider pardons granted as part of the King Father’s cremation ceremony, said Nuth Sa An, secretary of state at the Ministry of Interior.
“This is a diplomatic matter between Cambodia and Thailand and has nothing to do with the cremation ceremony…. Samdech Hun Sen…talked to [Thai] Prime Minister Yingluck [Shinawatra] and she requested him to release and reduce the jail sentences for both of them,” Mr. Sa An said at the prison.
Making political hay of the event, Mr. Sa An added that the release was proof of the strong ties between Bangkok and Phnom Penh, and that both leaders did not think about the profit of individuals, but how to benefit the whole nation.
Ms. Ratree had less to say about the occasion.
“I am happy,” she said in Thai, before getting into a car provided by the Thai Embassy.
Another 412 prisoners will benefit from a Royal Pardon and walk free from prisons across the country after their presence at the King father’s cremation ceremony on Monday, prison officials said.
Last week, King Sihamoni signed a royal decree releasing the 412 prisoners, whose freeing from prison will be officially announced on Monday. Jail terms were also reduced for 84 inmates by between six months to one year.
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