Thai Premier Returns Thursday

Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra is planning to visit Phnom Penh for several hours Thursday, marking his second visit to Cambodia since being swept into office amid controversy in January.

Thaksin, who will be accompanied by Thailand’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Surakiart Sathira­thai, is scheduled to be awarded the “Grand Cross of the Royal Order of Sahametrei” by King Norodom Sihanouk Thursday and to meet with Prime Minister Hun Sen later in the day, officials from the Cambodian Ministry of Foreign Affairs said.

“The Thai prime minister will be decorated by the King be­cause he is fostering relations between our two countries,” said Sieng Lapresse, undersecretary of state for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

The most recent recipient of the Grand Cross of Royal Order of Sahametrei award was former Indonesian Foreign Minister Ali Atalas, honored by the King in 1991 after Atalas helped negotiate the 1991 Paris Peace Accords with Cambodia, Sieng Lapresse said. He could not comment on what Thaksin and Hun Sen will discuss.

Thaksin visited Cambodia in June. He met with Hun Sen and signed an agreement for possible oil exploration in a 27,000 -hectare area in the Gulf of Siam.

Thaksin and Hun Sen also signed a general economic and trade pact that included an agreement over logging on the Thai-Cambodian border, and an agreement to try to reduce human trafficking. The two leaders also discussed border issues.

The Thai prime minister, a billionaire telecommunications tycoon, served as the deputy prime minister in 1997. He was the focus of corruption allegations in December, when the Thai National Counter-Corruption Commission ruled that Thaksin violated anti-graft laws by allegedly hiding assets during his term as a minister in the previous Thai government.

Thaksin asserted his innocence throughout the ordeal. The day before he arrived in Cambodia in June, he told The Associated Press: “I earned my wealth honestly during my entire life, but if there was some mistake, the mistake was made unwittingly.”

Thailand’s Constitutional Coun­cil eventually acquitted Thaksin of the charges in early August.


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