Thaksin Dines With Hun Sen, To Address Policymakers Today

Fugitive former Thai Prime Min­ister Thaksin Shinawatra is scheduled to speak with high-level Cam­bodian officials on economic issues today, after having spent much of yesterday in a meeting with Prime Minister Hun Sen, officials said.

Council of Ministers spokesman Phay Siphan said yesterday that Mr Thaksin, appointed as Mr Hun Sen’s economic adviser in October, will advise officials today during a meeting at the Council for the De­velopment of Cambodia.

“In the CDC tomorrow, Thaksin will hold a discussion on economy and investment and tourism,” he said, adding that “high-level policymakers” would attend the meeting.

Mr Siphan said that the deposed Thai leader, who arrived in Phnom Penh late Sunday, was scheduled to dine twice with the Cambodian premier yesterday. Mr Thaksin ate lunch alone with Mr Hun Sen at his Phnom Penh home, the spokes­man said, adding that the pair had plans to meet for dinner as well.

“For lunchtime, Samdech Hun Sen had lunch with Thaksin. This evening he meets with Puea Thai representatives and Thaksin again for dinner,” Mr Siphan said. The delegation from the Thaksin-linked opposition Puea Thai party included three Thai lawmakers and one party spokesman, he added.

Government lawyer and chief of Mr Hun Sen’s cabinet Pal Chan­dara said that Mr Thaksin first met with the premier yesterday morning at his Phnom Penh home.

“Samdech has met with Thak­sin, after meeting with [pardoned Thai engineer Siwarak Chotipong] and members of the Puea Thai party,” Mr Chandara said.

The relationship between Mr Thaksin and the Cambodian leadership has provoked a breakdown in diplomatic relations between Thai­land and Cambodia. The Thai Em­bassy in Phnom Penh and the Cam­bodian Embassy in Bangkok are both operating without both an am­bassador or a first secretary as a re­sult of the feud.

During Mr Thaksin’s November visit to Cambodia, the Thai government sought Mr Thaksin’s provisional arrest and extradition; the former premier faces two years in prison on corruption charges should he return to Thailand. Cam­bodia refused, arguing that Mr Thaksin’s conviction was politically motivated and thus was not covered by the extradition agreement bet­ween the two countries.

On its website yesterday, the Bangkok Post newspaper quoted Thai Deputy Prime Minister Sut­hep Thaugsuban as saying that Thak­sin’s latest visit could damage bilateral relations even further.

“I’m deeply concerned if Cam­bodia refuses to extradite Thaksin, because I don’t know how to continue relations between the two countries,” Mr Suthep said.

Cambodian Foreign Affairs Min­istry spokesman Koy Kuong said that Cambodia had not received any notice of a second extradition re­quest from Thailand.

“I just heard on the Internet that the Thai government wanted to send [an extradition request] again, but so far nothing,” he said by telephone.

He added that there had been no change in diplomatic relations be­tween the two countries since Mr Thaksin’s previous visit. “Now, it just stands still,” Mr Kuong said.

Thai government spokesman Panitan Wattanayagorn said yesterday that the power to request Mr Thaksin’s arrest did not lie with the government, and that he did not know if a second request would be sent to Phnom Penh.

“It’s up to the state attorney on foreign affairs to make a judgment. Our administration has no specific policy, because it is their implementation,” Mr Panitan said. “I think the Cambodian government has stated quite clearly that they won’t do it. But it’s up to the state attorney.”

  (Additional reporting by Neou Vannarin and Julia Wallace)


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