Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra said Tuesday his government would not extradite a Sam Rainsy Party activist accused of attempting to assassinate Prime Minister Hun Sen.
Sok Yoeun was arrested in Bangkok in December 1999 for illegally entering Thailand. He had fled Cambodia after a rocket attack on Prime Minister Hun Sen’s motorcade in Siem Reap.
Sok Yoeun had been granted temporary refugee status in Thailand by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, but was arrested after Phnom Penh sought his return.
Responding a question if he would consider sending Sok Yoeun back to Cambodia, Thaksin gave a terse “no” just before boarding a Royal Thai Air Force plane bound for Burma.
Hun Sen was unharmed in the September 1998 attack, but one bystander was killed. Opposition party members have repeatedly called the government’s extradition efforts an attempt to intimidate the Sam Rainsy Party.
Thaksin’s departure from Pochentong Airport concluded a two-day visit in which the two governments agreed to cooperate on several social and economic initiatives, including potentially lucrative joint oil exploration in the Gulf of Siam.
A 15-point statement included agreements to control illegal logging along the border, to work to demine the border area, to fight human and illegal drug trafficking and to upgrade roads and rail links between the two countries.
Thaksin also presented gifts of a bulletproof car and medicine to Hun Sen and the government at a signing ceremony at the Council of Ministers Monday.
Speaking to reporters Tuesday after a meeting with National Assembly President Prince Norodom Ranariddh, Thaksin hailed “a new era of cooperation between Thailand and Cambodia and in the region.”
“We are heading toward closer cooperation socially and politically,” he said.
In addition to his meeting with Prince Ranariddh, Thaksin met with King Norodom Sihanouk and with Senate President Chea Sim Tuesday morning. He laid a wreath in a brief ceremony at the Independence Monument and also met at the Thai embassy with local Thai investors.
With Prince Ranariddh at his side outside the National Assembly, Thaksin said political stability in Cambodia is “very, very strong.”