Ousted Thai premier arrives in CambodiaNovember 10th, 2009 - 4:38 pm ICT by IANS
Phnom Penh/Bangkok, Nov 10 (DPA) Former Thai premier Thaksin Shinawatra landed in Cambodia Tuesday, the Cambodian government said, amid an escalating diplomatic spat over the fugitive politician.
Government spokesman Phay Siphan told reporters in Phnom Penh that Thaksin, who last week was appointed as an adviser to the Cambodian government and Prime Minister Hun Sen, was in the country.
“It is a great honour for Cambodia,” Phay Siphan said. “We hope Cambodia as a whole will greet him warmly.”
Thailand withdrew its ambassador to Phnom Penh last week after the Cambodian government announced Thaksin’s appointment. Cambodia reciprocated by recalling its ambassador as ties between the neighbours hit their lowest point in years.
Thailand has threatened to ask for Thaksin’s extradition should he arrive in Cambodia, but Phnom Penh has said it would refuse to return him to his home country “under any circumstances” because it considers a conviction against him politically motivated.
“Once his arrival has been confirmed, I think the extradition request will proceed swiftly,” Thai foreign ministry spokesman Thani Thongpakdi said in Bangkok.
However, Phay Siphan told journalists that, because diplomatic channels were closed after Thailand withdrew its ambassador, he could not see how such a request could be delivered.
He stressed that Thaksin would not be permitted to engage in politics during his stay because to do so would be contrary to the country’s constitution.
“He is here for economic reasons, not for any activities related to politics,” he said. “You must understand that Cambodia does not allow (foreign nationals) to do politics within Cambodia at all.”
Phay Siphan said Thaksin would stay at least two or three days. He was scheduled to deliver an address to Cambodian economists Thursday.
Ahead of Thaksin’s arrival in Cambodia, the Thai cabinet Tuesday revoked a Thai-Cambodian memorandum of understanding on joint oil and gas exploration in an overlapping continental shelf area. It had been signed in June 2001 when Thaksin was prime minister.
The Thai parliament was expected to approve the cabinet move Tuesday afternoon, but the head of Cambodia’s border commission, Var Kimhong, said the move would be against international law and would violate the memorandum.
“I could not find any term in these articles that allows the Thai side to terminate on its own without the consent of the (Cambodian) side,” he said. “No single article allows one side to terminate.”
Thaksin, who was prime minister from 2001 to 2006 before being toppled in a bloodless coup, faces a two-year jail sentence in Thailand for abuse of power. He has been living in self-imposed exile, mostly in Dubai, since August 2008.
Thaksin was overthrown after he lost the backing of Thailand’s Bangkok-based middle class and political elite. He remains popular with the poor because of his populist economic policies.
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