Prime Minister Hun Sen on Tuesday rejected speculation that Cambodia could play host to an exile government formed by the forces loyal to former Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra who were ousted in a coup d’etat last week.
In a speech delivered at Phnom Penh’s Koh Pich at a ceremony for graduates from the Royal University of Phnom Penh, Mr. Hun Sen also warned Mr. Thaksin, his long-term ally and friend, of the instability that could be caused by forming a government-in-exile.
“Firstly, Cambodia regards the Thai situation as Thailand’s internal problem, and Cambodia will not interfere and has not interfered in Thailand’s internal problems,” Mr. Hun Sen said at the ceremony.
The prime minister explained that he had been in Shanghai when the Thai military declared martial law at 3 a.m. on Tuesday and had phoned instructions immediately back to Phnom Penh.
“When there was a coup, I contacted [Deputy Prime Minister] Sar Kheng and asked him to issue a directive for the armed forces along the border to maintain a normal relationship and to not deploy armed forces to avoid any misunderstandings,” Mr. Hun Sen said.
“Our attitude is to work hard to keep a normal relationship with the Thais whether there is a civilian government or military government,” he added. “Now I hear that the Thai king signed [off the military] to lead the country, so it is finished because their king has signed to lead the country.”
“I hope that former prime ministers Yingluck and Thaksin will understand about Cambodia’s stance, because now Yingluck and Thaksin are not the prime ministers leading their country,” Mr. Hun Sen said.
Mr. Thaksin’s sister, Yingluck Shinawatra, was ousted as prime minister three weeks ago in a highly politicized decision from Thailand’s Constitutional Court. On Thursday, the Thai military then ousted the rest of her government and assumed power.
Mr. Thaksin was ousted as prime minister in a military coup in 2006 and fled to Dubai to avoid charges of corruption.
Mr. Hun Sen, who has for many years cultivated a close personal relationship with Mr. Thaksin—whom he once dubbed his “eternal friend”—had promised the former Thai leader and his followers safe passage and sanctuary in Cambodia, and even allowed Mr. Thaksin and his red-shirt supporters to rally at Angkor Wat in 2012.
“Prime Minister Hun Sen has an iron heart and it is lucky for the neighboring country,” Mr. Thaksin told supporters at the time. “If he did not have [an] iron heart like this, thousands of you could not come here.”
The friendship led to speculation in international media earlier this week that Mr. Thaksin could be allowed to organize forces in Cambodia.
Mr. Thaksin’s international lawyer, Robert Amsterdam, was on Sunday quoted by Australia’s national broadcaster, the ABC, as saying Ms. Yingluck’s ousted government and Mr. Thaksin’s supporters were planning to set up a government-in-exile to oppose the military junta. The ABC openly speculated that Cambodia could play host.
At Tuesday’s ceremony, however, Mr. Hun Sen put the kibosh on rumors that Mr. Thaksin’s forces could be allowed to organize in Cambodia. Instead, he called on the red shirts in Thailand to wait for the junta to call fresh elections in the country in “a year and a half or two years.”
“I confirm that Cambodia is not the location to provide any countries or any group of Thais or any countries to create an exile government, and the Cambodian Constitution does not allow Cambodia to become a location opposed to any countries,” Mr. Hun Sen said.
Mr. Hun Sen also said a government-in-exile could lead Ms. Yingluck, Mr. Thaksin and their Pheu Thai party to “meet with an incident” and called on the pair to reject Mr. Amsterdam’s public claim.
“This opinion, if I were Thaksin, I would reject now,” Mr. Hun Sen said, before explaining that he was offering the advice in his capacity as a political analyst and not as Cambodia’s prime minister. “If I were Yingluck, I would reject it now because it is a very dangerous opinion.”
“This opinion, it could make Yingluck and Thaksin die,” he added.
The prime minister called on Cambodians living in Thailand to follow the orders handed down by the Thai military and to avoid joining in activities that could be perceived as political or insurrectionary.
“Please don’t join any groups to oppose any other groups,” he said.
Mr. Hun Sen cut his teeth as prime minister under the Vietnamese-backed People’s Republic of Kampuchea (PRK), which fought through the 1980s and early 1990s against a Cambodian government-in-exile on the Thai border formed from remnants of regimes from the 1960s and 1970s.
The exiled forces were backed by Thailand, the U.S. and China and frequently withdrew into Thai territory to the protection of the country’s strong military when attacked by the forces of the Vietnamese and PRK.
The Foreign Affairs Ministry also released a statement Tuesday informing Cambodians living in Thailand of the 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. curfew imposed by the Thai military and announcing that Cambodia’s embassy in Bangkok had set up a hotline for anyone facing “emergency problems.”
“There will be no problems if our Cambodian people respect their rules and laws,” said Foreign Affairs Ministry spokesman Koy Kuong.
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