Dutch-Thai prisoner treaty moves a step closer

20th January 2004, Comments 0 comments

20 January 2004 , AMSTERDAM — Foreign Minister Ben Bot will hold unexpected talks with the Thai Justice Minister on Thursday in what is being viewed as a positive development in diplomatic efforts to reach a prisoner-exchange treaty with the South-East Asian nation.

20 January 2004

AMSTERDAM — Foreign Minister Ben Bot will hold unexpected talks with the Thai Justice Minister on Thursday in what is being viewed as a positive development in diplomatic efforts to reach a prisoner-exchange treaty with the South-East Asian nation.

Minister Bot is currently accompanying Queen Beatrix and Prince Willem-Alexander on a State visit to Thailand to officially mark 400-years of diplomatic ties between the two nations. They arrived in Bangkok on Monday.

But amid concern over the plight of 15 Dutch nationals being detained in Thai jails, the visit was also seen as a key component in efforts to reach a treaty with Thai authorities allowing detainees to serve out part of their prison sentence in the Netherlands.

Bot was already expected to meet with the Thai Foreign Minister, Surakiart Sathirathai, on Thursday, but his meeting with the nation's Justice Minister, Pongthep Thepkanjana, later that night comes as a surprise. The second meeting was set up at the urging of the Dutch minister, an NOS news report said.

But Bot said he did not expect the talks with the justice minister would yield immediately visible results. Despite this, he said the state visit had accelerated negotiations between the two countries.

Several problems still stand in the way of an extradition treaty, such as the difference in the length of Dutch and Thai prison sentences. Bot said the Thai authorities needed to offer the Netherlands certain concessions.

The plight of Dutch prisoners in Thai jails has been the subject of much debate in recent months. The most well-known prisoner is Machiel Kuijt, who lodged a last ditch appeal for freedom late last year after he was convicted on appeal and sentenced to life in prison on drugs charges.

Amnesty International reported in November 2003 that human rights abuses — such as torture and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment — continue to occur in pre-trial detention and in the Thai prison system.

And criticism has also been directed at the Dutch embassy in Thailand on allegations it is not doing enough to assist Dutch detainees. But the ambassador dismissed the criticism and said inmates receive a monthly visit and are also provided with medical care.

Meanwhile, Minister Bot will immediately fly home to the Netherlands after his meeting with the Thai justice minister. Queen Beatrix and Prince Willem-Alexander will return home a day later.

[Copyright Expatica News 2004]

Subject: Dutch news

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