Major intervenes in drugs case

HOPES for the release of Patricia Cahill and Karyn Smith, the two women serving long prison sentences in Bangkok for heroin smuggling, were increased last night after the Foreign Office disclosed for the first time that John Major had intervened on their behalf.

Mark Lennox-Boyd, Parliamentary Under-Secretary at the Foreign Office, said in a Commons reply that the Prime Minister had written to Chuan Leekpai, the Thai Prime Minister, in February, 'to support the girls' Royal Pardon petitions.

'In his reply, the Thai Prime Minister acknowledged our support for the petition and gave assurances that the Thai Government is doing its best for the girls' well-being.'

The Government case for an early release on humanitarian grounds has also been pursued with the Thai embassy in London, and ministers hope that the official pleas will bear fruit. However, that diplomatic case was underlined by continuing Whitehall insistence that there was no substance in allegations that the two women, aged 17 and 18 when arrested in July 1990, had had drugs planted on them at the time of their arrest.

The Government chemist has said that the bags of powdered heroin referred to in the Bangkok court judgment - and filmed by the BBC shortly after the arrests - could not physically have been held in the containers and baggage alleged.

Mr Lennox-Boyd repeated what he had said in a letter to the Independent last month; that those claims were damaging the chances of the two women being freed on a pardon from the King of Thailand.

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