Prime Minister Hun Sen returned from the Asean summit in Thailand yesterday without meeting Thai leader Abhisit Vejjajiva face-to-face to discuss the border dispute near Preah Vihear temple, Foreign Minister Hor Namhong said at a news conference.
Mr Hun Sen provoked the Thai leadership last week after announcing that he would give shelter in Cambodia to fugitive former Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, and then offering the exiled premier a job as his economic adviser, reportedly comparing the former leader to Burma’s Aung San Suu Kyi.
Mr Namhong said at Phnom Penh International Airport that time constraints had prevented the current Thai and Cambodian leaders from having a private discussion. “Hun Sen did not meet the Thai premier Abhisit during the summit because there was no time to meet,” Mr Namhong said.
Mr Namhong added that Mr Hun Sen also didn’t meet with Cambodia’s designated civil society representative—Adhoc advocacy section head Nay Vanda—during a scheduled forum Friday at the summit. Thailand had promised the Asean governments that they could choose their own NGO representatives to attend the summit, Mr Namhong said.
“There was disorder, because the arrangement was not honored,” he said in reference to the government not being allowed to choose its own representative. Mr Namhong added that he would not elaborate on Mr Hun Sen’s public gestures toward Mr Thaksin. “I will not comment again on the premier’s words on this issue.”
After his ouster from power in 2006 and an indictment on corruption charges, Mr Thaksin fled Thailand last August and has been on the run ever since. He faces two years in jail if he returns to Thailand. Foreign Affairs spokesman Koy Kuong said by telephone yesterday that he had no information about when or if Mr Thaksin would travel to Cambodia.
An in-house editorial by the Thai English-language newspaper The Nation, published yesterday, described Hun Sen as having shown a lack of “political manners” in extending the invitation and job offer to the fugitive Mr Thaksin.
“You can take the man out of the jungle but you cannot take the jungle out of the man, or so the saying goes,” the editorial read.
“Perhaps the Cambodian premier thought he was still leading some Khmer Rouge faction, and did not think that as prime minister of his country there was a need to be considerate to others’ feelings, much less diplomatic protocol.”
Thailand’s Ambassador to Cambodia, Viraphand Vacharathit, said by telephone yesterday that he had no information about the Asean meeting, and could not comment about Mr Hun Sen’s comments.
“My prime minister stated clearly already. I don’t have to say anything else.”
Last week, Mr Abhisit reportedly told national media that he would seek the extradition of Mr Thaksin from Cambodia, in accordance with a treaty between the two countries.
In a statement released Friday, the government said that Cambodia has no intention of agreeing to an extradition.
“Cambodia’s stance is firm and will not, whatsoever, extradite upon request by the government of Thailand in the case that HE Thaksin tends to stay in Cambodia,” the government said.
According to the statement, the 1999 treaty allows for either country to reject an extradition request if “the request for extradition is made by the requesting party as a political offense,” or the request is based on an intention to “institute criminal proceedings against or execute punishment upon the person sought on account of race, religion, national or political opinion of that person.”
The cabinet of the opposition Sam Rainsy Party urged the government to remain neutral in Thailand’s internal problems in a statement released Saturday.
“Any spillover from the current internal tension/unrest in Thailand could be very detrimental to Cambodia,” the opposition warned.
The opposition party also rejected reported remarks made by Mr Hun Sen at the Asean summit during which the primer minister compared his invitation to Mr Thaksin to stay in Cambodia to the SRP leader Sam Rainsy’s recent visit to speak before the Foreign Correspondents Club of Thailand.
“Sam Rainsy’s intervention at the FCCT had nothing to do with border issues or any other disputes between Cambodia and Thailand, and the Thai government was not involved in any way in the Sept 22 press conference attended by Sam Rainsy,” the party said.
Mr Hun Sen’s confrontational remarks during the summit stood in contrast to a joint, closing statement issued yesterday from Asean’s member states celebrating the “extensive, open and fruitful discussion” at the summit, and announcing the establishment of the Asean Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights.
That statement also called for “connecting of the hearts and minds of Asean peoples across the region, through closer people-to-people ties,” and stressed the importance of cooperation to address the economic crisis, climate change and food security issues.
At a ceremony marking the close of the summit yesterday, Mr Abhisit stressed the importance of Asean producing “concrete” results and calling for “a people-centered and more integrated Asean Community,” according to a copy of his speech.
Mr Namhong added at yesterday’s press conference that the bloc had also discussed cooperative deals with the US, Korea, China, Japan and India.