YANGON, Myanmar (AP) — A court in southern Myanmar has sentenced 92 Thai nationals to three and a half years in prison for entering the country illegally to grow crops, a government official said Wednesday.
The verdicts were issued Tuesday in Kawthuang, a town on Myanmar's southern tip, a senior Immigration Ministry official said. He declined to be identified because he was unauthorized to speak to the media.
Thailand's Foreign Ministry confirmed the verdicts and said Thai diplomats in Myanmar were putting in a request to visit the detainees.
"Certainly everything has to follow the court's proceedings in Myanmar, but we will try to see if we can appeal or how we can mitigate the sentences," Thai Foreign Ministry spokesman Thani Thongphakdi told The Associated Press.
The Thais were arrested during a military operation in early July for illegally entering the country. Myanmar state media reported that the farmers were attempting to grow rubber trees on 1,500 acres of land, and some of them were armed with automatic rifles and grenades. Thai media reported that some members of the group were attempting to grow marijuana.
So far the case has not affected bilateral relations. Last week, Myanmar President Thein Sein ended a three-day visit to Thailand with an agreement to boost economic cooperation between the two neighbors. During his trip, Thein Sein told Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra he would look into seeking measures to help but said the case had to make its way through the court system.
Associated Press writer Thanyarat Doksone in Bangkok contributed to this report.