Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen has offered to give asylum to fugitive former Thai premier Thaksin Shinawatra, his “eternal friend”, a move likely to further strain ties between the two countries.
Hun Sen’s offer will rile Thailand’s shaky government as it hosts a summit this week of 16 Asia-Pacific leaders twice delayed due to political unrest that has plagued Southeast Asia’s second-biggest economy for four years.
WHY HAS HUN SEN MADE THE OFFER TO THAKSIN?
The outspoken Cambodian premier has always got on well with Thaksin, an investor in his country’s telecoms sector in the past and reported to be looking at new investments, including casinos.
He considers Thaksin to be a victim of a political vendetta and has made it clear he is not fond of Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva’s government.
Hun Sen is a wily politician who has often used the historical rivalry between the two countries to stoke nationalist fervour for his own gain. His offer to Thaksin will anger many Thais and thus score a few points for him at home.
A long dispute over the 11th century Preah Vihear temple has gained momentum under Abhisit’s government and Hun Sen was not impressed when Thai Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya reportedly called him a “gangster”. Kasit denies saying that.
HOW HAS THAILAND RESPONDED?
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By Martin Petty
(Editing by Alan Raybould and Sanjeev Miglani)