Credits, Extradition Agreements, and Reasons for Exemptions – Sunday, 25.10.2009

Posted on 26 October 2009. Filed under: *Editorial*, Week 635 |

The Mirror, Vol. 13, No. 635

Additional international loans from China and from the Republic of Korea have been agreed upon. As The Mirror quoted from reports this the week, during 2008 and 2009, about US$1 billion were received as loans from China, with an emphasis on infrastructure development. Besides these loans, also a grant was announced during the week of approximately US$15 million – half of it as grant aid, and the other half as a loan with no interest, to help overcome the suffering from recent floods and to restore infrastructure. Relief for the damage caused by the typhoon Ketsana is also forthcoming from the World Bank, Japan, Germany, and maybe from other sources.

In addition, during the visit of the President of the Republic of Korea, an amount of US$200 million in loans were agreed upon.

We are not aware that details about the timing and the terms of the re-payment obligations were published. Neither did we see any evaluation of the situation in terms of what is called a “sustainable external debt” – which is defined by some scholars of economics as “a situation where a country is expected to be able to meet its current and future debt obligations in full, without recourse to debt relief, rescheduling of debts, or the accumulation of arrears, and without unduly compromising growth.”

A number of agreements were signed, with China related to the infrastructure measures to be implemented with the loans, as we have mirrored before. With Korea, also a number of measures in other fields were agreed upon, among otheres also a mutual agreement on extraditions.

The role of extradition agreements, their validity, and possible exception, started to be discussed intensely after it had been reported that Prime Minister Hun Sen had offered to host his ‘eternal friend,’ the former Thai prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra, and he can come to Cambodia anytime, “and I prepare a house to welcome him.”

This announcement, immediately before the ASEAN summit meeting in Thailand, resulted in a series of responses and explanations back and forth, where we try to mirror the main developments.

The Thai Prime Minister countered with a statement that Thailand will ask to have the former Thai prime minister extradited if he comes to Cambodia, because of his conviction for a two years prison sentence, adding that he believes “the Cambodian leaders can clearly separate between politics and friendship.”

In spite of this, Prime Minister Hun Sen was quoted to have said, while in Thailand, “Thaksin can stay in Cambodia as a guest of Cambodia. He can also be my adviser on the economy.” And he added: “Many people talk about Aung San Suu Kyi in Myanmar, why not talk about Thaksin? That cannot be referred to as interfering.”

In response, the Thai Prime Minister is quoted to have said: “I am concerned that he is seriously misinformed. I think there is clearly a misunderstanding of the situation if he compares the situation, as far as Thaksin is concerned and Aung San Suu Kyi. – I don’t know how many people share his view that Thaksin is like Aung San Suu Kyi. I doubt there are many, for fairly obvious reasons.”

Also the Cambodian government started to refer to misunderstanding and to clarifications. The Bangkok Post had reported: “Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen has built a house for Thaksin Shinawatra to stay in his country whenever he wants to, Gen Chavalit Yongchaiyudh said on his return from Cambodia” – but this was now denied and declared as incorrectly quoted by journalists. And though the possibility of an extradition was strictly rejected, “the Royal Government of Cambodia still maintains the firm position to maintain good relationships and cooperation in all sectors between the Kingdom of Cambodia and the Kingdom of Thailand.” The invitation to stay temporarily – not permanently, as was now stated, was to be considered to be “based on an humanitarian attitude, as Samdech Akkak Moha Senapadei Dekchor Hun Sen is a friend of Mr. Thaksin, and he helps him in a time of crisis, and this humanitarian attitude is not meant to interference in the internal affairs of Thailand.”

But so far the Thai side is not accepting such an interpretation. Also the Foreign Minister of Thailand expressed the hope that the Cambodian Prime Minister “would be able to distinguish personal affairs from the mutual interests of the two countries,” adding “I don’t know whether Prime Minister Hun Sen has invited Thaksin to visit Cambodia after he has served his jail term in Thailand or not.” If it were before serving his time in prison, the Thai government would seek his extradition in accordance with the bilateral treaty.

Such exchanges brought also other affairs again up for discussion: The Thai former deputy interior minister Vatana Asavahame, convicted for corruption, who is said to have fled to Cambodia to live here, could not be extradited because his offenses were committed before the extradition treaty came into effect in 2001. But the conviction of the former Thai prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra happened in 2008. Though the Cambodian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation had reported the conclusion of the Cambodia-Thailand Extradition Treaty on its website, the text is not available there.

The Thai government continues to consider an extradition request, as there are only two reasons mutually agreed upon for rejecting such a request: if a conviction was politically motivated, or if it was the result of a bias based on reasons of race, religion, nationality, or political views. There is no disagreement about the right of either side to reject an extradition. So the Cambodian government is entitled to “clarify the interpretation of the case of the Thai former prime minister, Mr. Thaksin Shinawatra, as it could be viewed as being politically motivated” as also reported as a Cambodian government position yesterday.

It is now also remembered again that the Cambodian and the former Thai prime ministers have overseen the conclusion of big business deals. The Thai Samart mobile phone company was an early entrant into the Cambodian market, and in 2001 followed a 22 years agreement that the telecommunications company of Mr. Thaksin Shinawatra will provide the main air traffic control services for the airports of Phnom Penh and Siem Reap.

The Mirror of 29 June 2008 carried information about the dramatic developments related to the accusations about financial irregularities, leading to a court case against the ousted former prime minister, so that he at the end requested the permission to leave the country briefly on bail – but the result was that he broke the promise of an early return to face the court. Only one episode is repeated here: the mistaken box of chocolate:

Three lawyers of the ousted prime minister were jailed for six month by the Supreme Court for attempted bribery and contempt of the court. They had visited the court to discuss when the former prime minister and his wife would appear at the court, and when leaving, the lawyers left a lunch box with Baht 2 million in cash – about US$60,000 – ‘for the court officials.’ When they opened it, a judge happened to walk by and saw it. The jailed lawyer said he just mistook the box – his wife had prepared some chocolate for the court staff, and he, by mistake, took the other box with the two million. Now the police is investigating where the money came from.

In the meantime, tensions between the deeply split political groupings in Thailand are also intensifying.
Another former army commander and former prime minister, General Prem Tinsulanond, a senior to the former army commander and former prime minister Chavalit Yongchaiyudh, criticized that the visit of the latter to Cambodia, and the subsequent invitation to the former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra has opened the Thai political society to international interference.

It is very difficult to foresee what will happen next. All sides involved are also under pressure to prove their patriotic commitment to solve the problem of the area around the Preah Vihear temple, without alienating public natinalistic expectations to find a solution for “their” side.

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