Thursday, October 22, 2009
(Posted by CAAI News Media)
Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva rebuked neighbouring Cambodia's premier Hun Sen on Thursday for his offer to let fugitive former Thai leader Thaksin Shinawatra stay there "anytime".
Mr Abhisit told reporters that his Cambodian counterpart should keep friendship and politics separate.
"I have talked with Hun Sen several times and he's told me that he's Thaksin's friend, but that he will separate friendship from duty and international affairs," said Mr Abhisit.
"I have told Hun Sen that anyone appointed to an important position must separate out their personal relations," he said.
Thaksin was ousted in a 2006 coup and continues to live in exile after fleeing in August last year to avoid a two-year jail term for abuse of power while in office office, handed down by the Supreme Court
Mr Abhisit reiterated Deputy Prime Minister Suthep Thaugsuban's announcement that the government would seek Thaksin's extradition if he ever set foot in Cambodia.
"Once Thaksin enters Cambodia the extradition process will begin.
''If Cambodia fails to comply with the treaty, that would be another story," he said, adding that he hoped to meet Hun Sen at the weekend.
Regional leaders from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) are to gather at the coastal town Hua Hin on Friday to attend the 15th Asean Summit and other regional meetings.
Mr Abhisit said that he would not raise the issue of providing refuge for Thaksin when he meets Hun Sen this weekend.
The prime minister said there was nothing out of the ordinary in Hun Sen's not being available to attend the official opening of the summit. Several other leaders would also not be able to attend the ceremony.
This would not affect relations and cooperation between the two countries, he said.
Asean secretary-general Surin Pitsuwan said later that Hun Sen was required to welcome the South Korean president, who was arriving on a visit to Phnom Penh.
Earlier, Deputy Prime Minister Suthep Thaugsuban, in charge of national security, told reporters that Hun Sen should not meddle in Thailand's affairs.
Cambodia's state-run TVK said on Wednesday that Hun Sen made the overture to Thaksin during a private meeting on Wednesday with Gen Chavalit Yongchaiyuth, a key member of the main opposition Puea Thai Party.
"Thaksin was a political victim. I respect and like him more now than when he was a prime minister," Hun Sen said in Phnom Penh.
Gen Chavalit also told reporters after the meeting that Hun Sen feels Thaksin is not being fairly treated politically, so he wanted to make it publicly known that he and Thaksin had always been friends.
Mr Suthep said he was not surprised by the remark by Gen Chavalit that Hun Sen had offered Thaksin a home.
"Thailand will make an extradition request if Thaksin is given shelter in Cambodia," Mr Suthep said.
"If Hun Sen is a friend of someone we have a problem with, there is no reason for us to be angry with the entire country," he continued. "I am sure he would differentiate between friendship and legal proceedings."
Thaksin, on his online Twitter feed, thanked Hun Sen for the invitation but stopped short of accepting it.
He said that he was currently staying in Dubai.
Relations between Cambodia and Thailand have been difficult for months amid an ongoing border conflict.
The two governments have been at loggerheads over the land around the Preah Vihear temple for decades. Tensions spilled over into violence in July last year, when the temple was granted Unesco World Heritage status.
The Thai government has repeatedly attempted to arrest Thaksin abroad, but the former premier travels on various passports.