Details Scant On Thaksin’s Rumored Visit

Government officials yesterday said they could not confirm Thai news reports that Thai fugitive and ex-Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra would be in Cambodia tomorrow and Saturday.

But they said Mr Thaksin—a former economic adviser to Prime Minister Hun Sen—was always welcome and that any plans he may have to visit were strictly personal.

Thai Defense Minister Yuthasak Sasiprapa and Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra, Mr Thaksin’s youngest sister, said the ex-premier’s visit was indeed personal and not an official state trip, according to Thai news website MCOT.

Citing an anonymous source in­side Thailand’s ruling Pheu Thai Party, MCOT reported that Mr Thaksin would be leading a delegation of “international investors” to meet with Prime Minister Hun Sen and Defense Minister Tea Banh.

The source reportedly said the delegation would discuss the possible development of yet-untapped oil and gas reserves beneath disputed waters in the Gulf of Thai­land—and get in a few rounds of golf on the sidelines of the talks.

Thai newspaper The Nation, however, reported that Mr Thak­sin’s adviser Noppadon Pattama was unaware of such plans.

Thai Foreign Affairs spokes­man Chavanond Intarakomaly­asut and Thai Ambassador to Cam­bodia Sompong Sanguan­bun also said they were in the dark on any plans by Mr Thaksin to visit Cambodia.

In Cambodia, spokesmen for the Council of Ministers and Foreign Affairs Ministry said they could not confirm the reports either.

“I don’t see any official letter on my desk,” Council spokesman Phay Siphan said. If Mr Thaksin had any plans to visit, he said, “it could be private.”

Koy Kuong, the Foreign Affairs spokesman, said Mr Thaksin was always welcome here.

“Excellency Thaksin can visit Cambodia any time he wishes.”

Mr Thaksin is wanted in Thailand for an abuse of power conviction and has remained abroad to avoid jail, spending most of his time in Dubai and communicating with his enthusiastic “red shirt” followers via Twitter and videoconferencing.

He and Prime Minister Hun Sen have maintained cordial personal relations even after his ouster in a 2006 coup. In 2009, Mr Hun Sen appointed him to a brief stint as an economic adviser, angering Thailand and causing the two countries to temporarily sever diplomatic ties.

The government in Bangkok requested that Mr Thaksin be extradited when he visited Cambodia in November that year to take up his adviser’s post, but the request was rebuffed.

Mr Thaksin’s last confirmed visit to Cambodia came in January 2010, though rumors of other stopovers have arisen since then.

Since his Pheu Thai Party’s victory in national elections last month-carried by its official motto of “Thaksin thinks, Pheu Thai does”-the former premier’s role in the new government has been a matter of intense speculation in Thailand. His conviction has kept him out of Thailand and any official office. Talk during the Thai election campaign that the telecoms tycoon might become a sort of roving business ambassador for Thailand was quickly quashed by his sister.

The “overlapping claims area” in waters between Thailand and Cambodia is considered to have the most lucrative oil and gas reserves off Cambodia’s coast, but a long-running dispute with Thailand over ownership has thus far stymied exploitation of the area by both countries.

  (Additional reporting by Phorn Bopha and Khuon Narim)


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