Sunday, November 8, 2009

Asean Urges Restraint in Thai-Cambodia Spat

Associated Press
NOVEMBER 7, 2009

(Posted by CAAI News Media)

BANGKOK -- The Association of Southeast Asian Nations expressed concern Saturday over a worsening diplomatic feud between Cambodia and Thailand and urged the neighboring countries to exercise restraint.

Already tense relations between the two nations erupted this past week when Cambodia named fugitive Thai ex-Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra its economic adviser. Thailand recalled its ambassador Thursday, and Cambodia followed suit.

The row stands to embarrass the 10-nation bloc and undermine its credibility at a summit of Asian and Pacific leaders in Singapore later this month, ASEAN Secretary-General Surin Pitsuwan said. U.S. President Barack Obama is to have his first summit with ASEAN at the meeting.

Surin expressed "concern over the escalation of tensions between Cambodia and Thailand (and) has appealed to both countries to exercise maximum restraint," an ASEAN statement said.

Surin took the unusual step of publicly asking ASEAN's foreign ministers to "assist the two (countries) to settle their bilateral dispute amicably and as soon as possible." ASEAN generally abides by a policy of not interfering in the internal affairs of its members.

The appointment of Thaksin as an economic adviser to Cambodia's government, announced Wednesday, soured already poor relations between the two neighbors, which have had small but sometimes deadly skirmishes over their land border in the past year.

The diplomatic dispute is closely tied to an ongoing political struggle within Thailand, where Thaksin is at the center of a political crisis and street protests that have gripped the country since 2006.

Thaksin was ousted in a 2006 military coup for alleged massive corruption and other charges. His supporters say he should be pardoned and returned to power. Since the coup, Thaksin has lived abroad to escape a corruption conviction and two-year prison sentence.

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