About 100 Thai protesters gathered outside the Cambodian Embassy in Bangkok yesterday to protest Prime Minister Hun Sen’s offer of work and shelter in Cambodia to fugitive Thai ex-premier Thaksin Shinawtra, officials said.
Demonstrators gathered in front of the Cambodian Embassy yesterday morning to read a statement protesting the gestures made by Mr Hun Sen during the weekend’s Asean Summit in Cha Am and Hua Hin, Cambodian Foreign Affairs spokesman Koy Kuong said yesterday.
“[The demonstrators] protested at the Cambodian Embassy at 10 yesterday morning, and stopped at nearly noon,” he said. “The embassy and staff are in safe condition.”
Mr Kuong said that he was waiting for more details from Bangkok, but said about 100 people were involved in the protest. Telephone calls to the embassy were not answered yesterday afternoon.
Thai protesters were led by Chaiwat Sinsuwong, a prominent member of the ultra-nationalist People’s Alliance for Democracy, but the demonstration was not officially connected to the yellow-shirted activists, the Associated Press reported.
In Phnom Penh, a representative of the Thai Embassy contacted reporters yesterday to reassure them that Thailand was doing everything it could to protect Cambodia’s Bangkok mission, placing police around the perimeter wall before the protestors assembled.
“We would like to express that there has been no incident happening to the Royal Cambodian Embassy in Bangkok,” First Secretary Chaturont Chaiyakam said by telephone. “If they have any protests, we are already giving full protection,” he said.
Mr Chaturont also addressed rumors circulating on Khmer-language websites that claimed the protesters had set fires near the embassy.
“We heard the rumor of some kind of burning. There has not been such activity,” he said.
A press release from the Thai Embassy yesterday afternoon confirmed that protesters had begun gathering outside Cambodia’s Embassy at 10 am to submit a petition, but stressed that the reports of a fire were false.
As the fallout from his provocative weekend comments continued to reverberate in Bangkok, Mr Hun Sen didn’t mention his visit to Thailand in a 90-minute-long speech yesterday—his first public remarks since returning from Thailand.
Thailand’s English-language newspapers, however, continued with their emotive coverage of Thai-Cambodia relations.
A cartoon of Mr Hun Sen and Thai premier Abhisit Vejjajiva playing tennis was splashed across the cover of yesterday’s edition of The Nation newspaper beneath the headline “Ball is in your court, PM tells Hun Sen.”
According to the article, “Abhisit said Hun Sen needed to hear all the facts before any conclusion could be reached. The Cambodian needed to know what laws Thaksin had violated and then decide as to whether the former PM should be sent back to Thailand, if and when he arrives in Cambodia.”
In an editorial in The Nation yesterday, opinion writer Sopon Onkgara called Hun Sen a “big bully” and lamented his “unwashed” manners.
“Such a hostile gesture is so unbecoming of a guest invited to participate in a significant meeting, attended by Asian national leaders, including from major powers such as China and Japan. Hun Sen himself might not find it easy to rub shoulders with people from the civilized world after spending half his life in jungles and around the Khmer Rouge killing fields.”
The Bangkok Post reported yesterday that Thai Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya plans to send an official response to Cambodia about the dispute, clarifying that Mr Thaksin is a wanted criminal in Thailand.
The same article quoted Thai Deputy Prime Minister Suthep Thaugsuban as saying he met privately with Mr Hun Sen during the weekend summit to smooth over bilateral relations.
Mr Kuong, the foreign ministry spokesman, said he had no knowledge of any official communication from Thailand. “Right now the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Cambodia has received nothing from Thailand.”
As for the meeting with Mr Suthep, “I have no information about that,” Mr Kuong said.
The Bangkok Post also quoted Thai Military General Anupong Paojinda yesterday describing the situation at the disputed border near Preah Vihear temple as “intact,” despite diplomatic tension between the two countries.
Mr Anupong reportedly told the paper, “I can assure you that the situation there will not lead to fighting, and we will not resort to the use of force.”
On Monday, RCAF officials announced that 38 tanks and 1,300 soldiers had been sent to the border.
Major General Srey Dek, Division 3 Commander at Preah Vihear, said that Cambodian army officials, led by RCAF Region 4 Commander-in-Chief Chea Mon, met with their Thai counterparts in Siem Reap yesterday, but did not come to any resolution about the border standoff.
“The situation at the border is still tense, because both sides are preparing for conflict,” Mr Dek said.