Sunday, November 8, 2009

Thai premier urges Hun Sen to behave as 'good neighbor'+

Nov 8 2009

(Posted by CAAI News Media)

BANGKOK, Nov. 8 (AP) - (Kyodo)—Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva urged Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen on Sunday to behave like a "good neighbor" and reconsider his appointment of ousted Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra as economic adviser.

Hun Sen's decision has triggered a bitter row between the two neighboring countries and prompted Thailand to withdraw its ambassador to Cambodia and cancel bilateral maritime talks.

Abhisit, speaking on a weekly television program, vented his frustration over Hun Sen's decision and said Bangkok cannot tolerate the criticism that Hun Sen has leveled against the Thai judicial system in making Thaksin his economic adviser.

Thaksin was convicted in a corruption case and has fled the country. "I think it was not acceptable that Cambodia criticizes our judicial system and politics over Thaksin's case...We always behave as a good neighbor and we also want good neighbors," he said.

Abhisit admitted Thailand and Cambodia are still locked in a dispute over border demarcation and the ancient temple of Preah Vihear on the border of the two countries but talks are ongoing to resolve the dispute without intervention from outside.

"Every time we met, Hun Sen always told me that we have to look to the future and not get stuck in the past...He said even though Thaksin is a close friend of his, he won't let his friendship with Thaksin affect bilateral relations," Abhisit added.

Abhisit last met Hun Sen in Tokyo on Saturday, where they and other Southeast Asian leaders attended a Mekong River development conference hosted by Japanese Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama.

The Thai premier reiterated that the decision to recall the Thai ambassador from Phnom Penh and the plan to pull out of bilateral talks over overlapping maritime claims was the right response to Hu Sen's moves.

On Friday, Thai Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya said Bangkok will seek to abrogate a memorandum of understanding on maritime boundary negotiations signed by the two countries in 2001 while Thaksin was still Thai premier.

Kasit said Thailand's negotiating stance is known to Thaksin, so his new advisory position could leave Thailand at a disadvantage in the maritime talks with Cambodia, which have not made progress in the last eight years.

During the TV program, Abhisit also called on the Thai people to show harmony over the Thaksin issue to protect the dignity of the country.

He also insisted that the row with Cambodia will not affect other countries in the region.

Thaksin was ousted as Thai prime minister in 2006 in a bloodless coup while he was out of the country and was later convicted of conflict of interest while in power and sentenced in absentia to two years in prison.

Cambodia believes the charges against Thaksin were politically motivated, making the 1998 extradition treaty between the two countries inapplicable.

Ties between Cambodia and Thailand have deteriorated since Thaksin's ouster, with armed forces from both sides skirmishing along disputed areas of their land border, particularly near a Cambodian temple long claimed by Thailand. The temple is listed as a World Heritage site.

On Wednesday, the Cambodian government announced that Thaksin, whom Hu Sen calls a close friend, has been appointed as an economic adviser and is free to travel and reside in Cambodia.

A day after the announcement, the Thai government recalled its ambassador to Cambodia in protest at the move and Cambodia recalled its ambassador to Bangkok in retaliation.

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