Cambodian-Thai Relations – Present and Former Prime Ministers – Sunday, 8.11.2009

Posted on 8 November 2009. Filed under: *Editorial*, Week 637 | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

The Mirror, Vol. 13, No. 637

Returning to Cambodia, on the way to the airport in Bangkok on 6.11.2009, the driver of the taxi I took – as soon as he knew that I was going to Cambodia – spoke almost the whole way about his surprise and anger that the former Thai prime minister, who was convicted to go to prison for being implicated in big, illegally land dealings in the Ratchadapisek area of Bangkok, and who lied to the court when he left the country on bail “for some days only” but never came back, is now invited by the Cambodian Prime Minister to come to Cambodia as adviser to the government. “Are there no laws against corruption in Cambodia?” – Surely, another taxi driver might have had a different evaluation; but it was an impressive outburst of firm convictions.

In the meantime, various voices have called for moderation.

The ASEAN Secretary General is quoted to have written: “We in ASEAN cannot afford to be seen as being so seriously divided prior to the upcoming APEC Economic Leaders Meeting and the historic ASEAN-US Leaders Meeting in Singapore this month,” in a letter to the foreign ministers of the region.

Also, the Chinese People’s Daily Online reported the concerns made public by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Singapore, that the recent dispute between Thailand and Cambodia is not good for the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). “It is not good for ASEAN. We hope that both our friends will keep the larger interest of ASEAN in mind and find a way to resolve their differences quickly in a spirit of good neighborliness.”

The Japanese Prime Minister Hatoyama Yukio said Japan was ‘concerned’ about the recent tensions between Cambodia and Thailand because Phnom Penh had offered a position to a fugitive Thai citizen. “I am concerned about the recent situation,” Mr. Hatoyama told Prime Minister Hun Sen, according to a Japanese official of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Cambodian official voices have rejected the opinion, expressed widely in Thai media, that the appointment of Mr. Thaksin Shinawatra is an intervention into the internal affairs of Thailand and an insult to the legal system of Thailand, stressing that Cambodia is a sovereign state and does not have to ask for the permission of another country when inviting and appointing a foreign national.

The Thai Deputy Prime Minister Suthep Thaugsuban agreed – partially – saying: “It’s Cambodia’s internal affair. But if we have evidence that Thaksin is in Cambodia, we will surely ask the Cambodian government to extradite him,” according to the extradition agreement between the two countries.

In the meantime, it had been reported that Mr. Thaksin, who used to live in Dubai in self-selected exile, has been flying, in his private jet, with a diplomatic passport of Nicaragua, to different countries in the Pacific, in search of the possibility to set up his presence in a country that does not have an extradition treaty with Thailand; he is reported to have been in Fiji, Papua New Guinea, Tonga, and Vanuatu. It was also reported that he narrowly avoided arrest during a stopover in Malaysia.

While the Cambodian Prime Minister invited the former Thai Prime Minister as his “eternal friend” and does not recognize the convictions for corruption pronounced by Thai courts, and therefore will reject to live up to the clauses of the bilateral extradition treaty, legal complications have been recognized by other countries, since Mr. Thaksin Shinawatra is recognized as a fugitive by the International Criminal Police Organization (Interpol), with an Interpol “red notice,” which, in a number of countries, serves as a legal basis for arrest. Cambodia is a proud member of Interpol already since 1956, shortly after the 1953 independence from France, and there have been several cases of international Interpol actions, with Cambodian cooperation, also in 2009.

The future is unclear. While writing these lines, the two following reports from the Japanese news agency Kyodo came in:

Thai premier urges Hun Sen to behave as ‘good neighbor’

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

Thaksin to give economics lecture in Phnom Penh on Thursday

Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen said Sunday that ousted Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra will visit Cambodia to give a lecture on economic matters in Phnom Penh on Thursday

.

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