Cambodian authorities are “processing” a request from Thailand’s military government to extradite three Thai citizens for the crime of insulting the monarchy, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said yesterday.
A number of extradition requests – 19 in total – have been made to seven countries for suspects of the widely condemned lese majeste laws in the wake of the late King Bhumibol Adulyadej’s death.
Foreign Ministry spokesman Chum Sounry yesterday confirmed the government had received a request to extradite three Thai nationals who had fled into Cambodia “for insulting the Thai monarchy”.
“Now the competent authorities are processing this request, so it is not the right time to issue detailed information,” Sounry said, remaining tight-lipped on the details of the alleged offences of the three people.
When asked if Cambodia would facilitate the extradition, Sounry declined to give a definitive answer but highlighted the extradition treaty signed by Thailand and Cambodia in 2001. “The two countries have an extradition treaty, and the Cambodian authorities are considering the request,” he said.
However, the treaty outlines that an extraditable offence is one that carries a jail term under the laws of both countries. Insulting a king is not a criminal offence under Cambodia’s Penal Code, legal expert Sok Sam Oeun confirmed.
“Insulting the king, it’s not a crime in Cambodia,” he said.
While he said he was not familiar with the treaty, Sam Oeun added the extradition requirement was also enshrined in Cambodia’s Criminal Procedure Code. “We can’t extradite any accused unless both sides have an act saying it is a crime, according to the Criminal Code,” he said.
“If it is not a crime in Cambodia, we cannot send those people [to Thailand].”
Diplomatic missions in Cambodia and Thailand could not be reached for comment late yesterday, but the Bangkok Post reported Thailand had also requested cooperation in extraditing lese majeste suspects from the United States, France, Australia, Japan and New Zealand.
According to the Bangkok Post, Thai Justice Minister Paiboon Koomchaya said he had received a “positive response” from the ambassadors he had approached, but they still “had a problem regarding international law”.
Insulting or defaming the monarchy can include comments made on social media about the royal family – such as a baffling case of a man making a “sarcastic” comment about the late king’s dog – and can carry a 15-year prison sentence.
Academics and observers internationally have condemned the laws, which are often used by the military junta to bolster its legitimacy.