Thaksin Preps Return Visit To Cambodia

This time, the rumors are true.

After a string of false Thai me­dia reports last month, Prime Minister Hun Sen yesterday confirmed fresh reports that fugitive former Thai Premier Thaksin Shi­nawatra will be arriving in Cam­bodia on Friday.

That puts his arrival in the country just one day after the first state visit from Thailand’s new prime minister—and Thaksin’s youngest sister—Yingluck Shinawatra.

But Mr Hun Sen denied media reports that Mr Thaksin was coming to talk about the two countries’ border dispute around Preah Vihear temple, competing claims to offshore oil reserves in the Gulf of Thailand, or to negotiate the early release of a pair of Thai activists serving jail terms in Cambodia for espionage.

“I would like to note that Thak­sin has no duties to discuss Thai-Cambodian relations, be­cause this is the Thai government’s duty,” Mr Hun Sen said during a graduation ceremony at the Na­tional University of Man­agement in Phnom Penh.

“Thaksin does not have any duties. It is just a coincidence that, in the meantime, there will be a visit from the Thai prime minister, which was scheduled later,” he said.

Mr Thaksin, whose appointment as an economic adviser to Mr Hun Sen inflamed Thai-Cam­bo­dian relations in 2009, will ad­dress an economics seminar being co-hosted by the Royal Academy of Cambodia and Cen­tral Asia Pacific Democrats Inter­national on Saturday, the prime minister said.

Should an injured hand be up to the task, Mr Thaksin will then play a round of golf on Sunday. The day after that, he will deliver another speech at a meeting of the Asian International Parlia­mentary Assembly before heading off to Siem Reap until he leaves Cambodian on Sept 24.

Mr Hun Sen vowed to reject any request to extradite Mr Thaksin, who technically still faces jail for an abuse-of-power conviction should he return to Thailand.

“Don’t order me to arrest Thak­sin. I will not do it whether your party is in the government or the opposition,” he said.

But with Mr Thaksin’s younger sister in firm control of the Thai Parliament, Cambodia is unlikely to be pressed for his extradition any time soon.

As for Mr Thaksin’s time in Siem Reap, the premier offered no details.

Council of Ministers spokes­man Phay Siphan said Mr Thak­sin might just catch up on some rest and recreation.

“He will stay to relax and play golf or meet with his ‘red-shirt’ supporters,” he said, referring to the preferred attire of Mr Thak­sin’s political followers.

The visit will be Mr Thaksin’s first confirmed trip to Cambodia since January 2010, though ru­mors have been rife of other, secret stopovers.

It will also be his first visit since the Pheu Thai Party—politically beholden to Mr Thaksin but officially helmed by his sister—swept to power in national elections held in July.

The victory has drawn pledges from both Bangkok and Phnom Penh to restore bilateral relations that were severely frayed under Thailand’s dethroned Democrat Party, including a possible deal for sharing the disputed offshore oil reserves.

According to US Embassy ca­bles recently released by Wiki­Leaks, Cambodia and Thailand were close to sealing a deal on the offshore oilfields when a military coup knocked Mr Thaksin out of power in 2006.

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