VERBAL SABRE-RATTLING : Don’t be a pawn, Thai PM tells Hun sen

abhisit_hunsen

Abhisit reacts strongly to latest remarks about Thaksin, including making him economic adviser.

Cha-am- Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva yesterday hit back at Cambodian Premier Hun Sen, urging him to respect the dignity of Asean by focusing his attention on how to help the 10-member regional grouping reach its stated goals.

“As Prime Minister Hun Sen comes to the Asean meeting, he should help the meeting reach its goals,” Abhisit said.

The statement was in response to Hun Sen’s controversial announcement that Cambodia would not extradite Shinawatra Thaksin to Thailand, where the fugitive ex-PM faces criminal charges, should he seek refuge there.

Hun Sen also announced on arrival yesterday in Cha-am that he would make the ex-premier his economic adviser.

Hun Sen compared Thaksin to Burmese pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi, asking rhetorically why he should not talk about his friend when everybody is allowed to talk about the detained winner of the Nobel Peace Prize.

Besides, said Hun Sen, millions of Thais support Thaksin and one Cambodian should not be a problem.

Abhisit urged his Cambodian counterpart to review whether his decision would benefit the national interests of the two countries or just one individual.

“Don’t allow anybody to use you as a pawn,” Abhisit told a press briefing, which was supposed to focus on the outcome of the Asean meeting.

Abhisit said extradition is a legal decision, which needs inputs from all parties to prove whether it is really a political case or a normal crime of corruption.

“It is a process to prove information by all parties, and we shall not make any prejudgement,” he said.

Hun Sen made his public statement shortly after arriving in Cha-am to attend the 15th Asean Summit.

He cited Article 3 in the extradition treaty with Thailand, which prohibits sending any persons to face punishment for a political offence.

His statement, the strongest and most controversial yet, raised tensions that have been brewing for more than a year because of a dispute about the overlapping territory around the ancient Preah Vihear Temple.

Hun Sen defended his decision to make Thaksin an economic adviser, insisting that it should not be considered intervention in Thailand’s internal affairs.

“It is not interference in Thai internal affairs but it is a political right of the sovereign state of Cambodia,” he said.

Many people are talking about Suu Kyi in Burma but why are they not talking about Thaksin as a victim, he said.

Hun Sen said he had made no complaint when Cambodia’s opposition leader Sam Rainsy issued a statement against his government a few weeks ago in Thailand.

Abhisit said Hun Sen should not compare Thaksin with Suu Kyi, as nobody would agree with such a comparison. It was the common stance of Asean to call for the release of Suu Kyi and Hun Sen might have wrong information about her situation, he added.

Hun Sen said he had simply offered moral support to Thaksin as a friend.

“Millions of Thai people in the red-shirt movement support Thaksin and why can’t I, a friend from afar, support Thaksin. Without the coup d’้tat of 2006, such things would not have happened,” he said.

Minutes after Abhisit concluded his statement, Thaksin sent a statement through Twitter, telling him not to be disrespectful to foreign leaders, including Hun Sen, and that, as the host of the summit, he should place the interest of the nation above politics.

By Supalak Ganjanakhundee
The Nation
Published on October 24, 2009

Cambodia and Thailand clash at summit over Thaksin

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