In Thailand, PM Offers Thaksin Job as Adviser

Prime Minister Hun Sen on Friday offered fugitive former Thai premier Thaksin Shinawatra a job as economic adviser, a slap in the face to Thailand’s rulers that could worsen the current diplomatic row over Cambodia’s relations with Mr Thaksin. The comments add to mounting friction with Thailand that threatens to overshadow the Asean Summit that began on Friday.

“Thaksin can stay in Cambodia as the guest of Cambodia and also be my guest as my adviser on our economy,” Mr Hun Sen was quoted as saying by the Reuters news agency in a rare appearance before international journalists at the summit.

The premier likened Mr Thaksin to Burma’s pro-democracy icon and Nobel Peace Prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi.

“People talk about Aung San Suu Kyi, why not talk about Thak­sin?” Mr Hun Sen said.

Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva had tough words for Mr Hun Sen, calling him “seriously misinformed” as the row threatened to overtake other issues at the Asean summit.

“I don’t know how many people share his view that Thaksin is like Aung San Suu Kyi. I doubt there are many in the world, for obvious reasons,” Mr Abhisit told a news conference.

“I don’t want him to be a victim or a pawn for someone who undermines the interests of this country,” Mr Abhisit added.

“I’m sure when he’s better informed, he’ll change his mind.”

The war of words underscored how Mr Thaksin can still yield considerable influence over Thailand’s affairs even from exile.

Earlier on Friday, the Cambod­ian government said it will not comply with any request from Thailand to extradite Mr Thaksin should the exiled premier seek sanctuary in Cambodia, according to a government statement issued in the early hours of Friday morning.

The statement, sent to the press by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs at 4:30 am, just hours before Mr Hun Sen arrived in Thailand, cites a 1991 treaty that allows either Cambodia or Thailand to reject extradition in cases involving political offenses.

According to the statement, extradition cannot be granted to “institute criminal proceedings ag­ainst or execute punishment upon the person sought on ac­count of race, religion, national or political opinion of that person, or that the position of the person sought in judicial proceedings will be prejudiced for any of the reasons mentioned above.

“Cambodia’s stance is firm and will not, whatsoever, extradite upon request by the government of Thailand in case that HE Thak­sin tends to stay in Cam­bodia, and the Royal Government of Cam­bodia keeps maintaining un­changed ties of friendship and good cooperation in all fields be­tween the Kingdom of Cam­bodia and the Kingdom of Thailand.”

The statement also said that Mr Hun Sen’s invitation of residence to Mr Thaksin was a personal matter, involving a longtime friend, and citeed the proverb, “a friend in need is a friend indeed.”

“This virtuous attitude is not interpreted as an interference in Thailand’s internal affairs,” the statement added.

On Wednesday, Mr Hun Sen offered safe haven in Cambodia to Mr Thaksin, who has lived in exile since 2008 when he was sentenced to two years in prison for abuse of power.

Mr Hun Sen’s offer immediately prompted Thai officials to declare that they would seek Mr Thaksin’s extradition.

Mr Thaksin’s current whereabouts are unknown.

Cambodian Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman Koy Kuong maintained on Friday that the Thaksin case was a personal issue, and did not concern governments.

“This statement will not affect the normal relations and cooperation between the two countries,” he said.

This will not be the first time the two countries have butted heads over extradition.

The government lobbied Thai­land for years to extradite SRP party activist Sok Yoeun, who was implicated—many say wrongly—in a 1998 rocket attack that targeted the route that Mr Hun Sen was traveling by car in Siem Reap province.

One bystander was killed by the explosion, which struck ahead of the prime minister’s entourage. Mr Yoeun, who was jailed in Bang­kok, was eventually allowed to leave Thailand in 2004 and was given political asylum in Finland.

(Reporting from Hua Hin by Reuters)





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