Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Thailand's fugitive former premier to visit Cambodia "soon"

Asia-Pacific News
Oct 28, 2009

(Posted by CAAI News Media)

Bangkok - Thailand's fugitive former premier Thaksin Shinawatra plans to visit Cambodia soon after being offered refuge and a job as an economic adviser by Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen, media reports said Wednesday.

Thaksin said he would be paying a visit to Thailand's neighbour 'soon to thank Hun Sen,' the Bangkok Post reported, citing an unnamed source in the Puea Thai opposition party, which has the financial backing of the former prime minister.

Hun Sen last week threw a monkey wrench in Thai-Cambodian relations by claiming that Thaksin, who faces a two-year jail sentence in Thailand and is living in self-imposed exile, was his good friend and would be granted refuge and a job as an economic adviser should be come to Cambodia.

He added that Cambodia would not extradite Thaksin to Thailand, even though the neighbouring countries have signed an extradition agreement.

The former Khmer Rouge cadre went on to compare Thaksin with Myanmar pro-democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi.

Suu Kyi, a Nobel Peace Prize laureate, has spent 14 of the past 20 years under house detention and was recently sentenced to another 18 months of house arrest.

Thaksin, a former telecommunications tycoon turned populist politician, was sentenced last year for abuse of power for allowing his wife in 2003 to bid on a plot of land at a public auction when he was still prime minister.

Thaksin was premier from 2001 to 2006 before being toppled in a bloodless military coup on charges of corruption, dividing the nation and undermining democratic institutions.

Thaksin's close ties to Hun Sen date back to when he was still the chairman of the Shinawatra Corp, which won several telecommunications concessions in neighbouring Cambodia.

Hun Sen's open support of Thaksin, made upon his arrival in Thailand Friday to attend a summit of the Association of South-East Asian Nations, was seen as a diplomatic slap in the face to current Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva, who came to power in December after the downfall of the previous pro-Thaksin coalition government.

Thailand and Cambodia have a long history of animosity and border spats, the latest one being over joint claims to land adjacent to the 11th-century Preah Vihear temple on their border.

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