Burmese people in Thailand are not pleased that Cambodia’s Prime Minister Hun Sen likened fugitive former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra with their arrested democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi.
After arriving at Hua Hin Airport to attend the15th Asean Summit on Friday, Prime Minister Hun Sen told reporters that the ousted premier was a victim of political persecution like Nobel Peace Prize winner Suu Kyi.
His comment caused a group of Burmese politicians, students and villagers to gather near the Burmese border in Tak’s Mae Sot district on Monday morning.
“Aung San Suu Kyi has been under house arrest for 14 years, is an unconditional fighter for democracy, has never thought of fleeing the country and is not fighting for her personal interests. She cannot be compared with Thaksin,” a Burmese student said.
Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya’s secretary, Chawanon Intharakomansut, said the Foreign Ministry had not asked the government to consider downgrading its diplomatic ties with Cambodia in response to Mr Hun Sen’s statement that his country would not allow Thaksin’s extradition.
“We’ll observe Cambodia’s reaction for now, after Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva called on the Cambodian premier to reconsider this issue carefully and focus on bilateral ties and benefits to both countries instead of one person’s personal interests.
“The Thai government will look for new ways to bring back Thaksin to Thailand if the Cambodian government refuses to extradite him,” he said.
Thaksin is like Suu Kyi? A terrible joke
Nobody should be surprised that many Burmese are unhappy with Cambodian PM Hun Sen’s recent comment comparing Thaksin Shinawatra to detained democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi.
Hun Sen made the remark during a meeting of the 15th Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) Summit in Cha-am, Thailand, suggesting that the billionaire businessman who became one of Thailand’s most popular politicians before his ouster in a 2006 coup was—like Suu Kyi—a victim of political persecution.
At the summit meeting, Hun Sen said that Thaksin, who is in self-imposed exile, was welcome to live in Cambodia, and he would not be extradited, if requested by Thailand.
Writing in Irrawady online magazine, Saw Yan Naing quoted Win Tin, a senior member of the Burma’s main opposition party, the National League for Democracy, as saying he was upset over Hun Sen’s comparison.
“There is no reason to compare Thaksin and Daw Aung San Suu Kyi,” he said.
“As a prime minister, Hun Sen must know that these two persons are different.”
Debbie Stothard, the coordinator of the Alternative Asean Network on Burma, said, “It’s a terrible joke to compare Thaksin Shinawatra to Suu Kyi.”
A Burmese university student at Ramkhamhaeng University in Bangkok, Kyaw Linn Oo, said Hun Sen may have meant that both Thaksin and Suu Kyi were very popular and received widespread political support.
Suu Kyi has sacrificed for democracy, and she was not comparable to Thaksin, who went into exile after he was convicted of corruption following the coup. Suu Kyi has spent 14 of the past 20 years in detention. While in office, Thaksin was widely criticized for his “War against Drugs,” in which thousands of people died in extra-judicial killings.
Saw Yan Naing quoted Kaung Kin, a Burmese poet and a student in Bangkok, as saying Hun Sen’s remark was “a big mistake.”
“Daw Suu [Suu Kyi] is a freedom fighter,” he said. “Thaksin was charged with corruption. Daw Suu is nonviolent. Supporters of Thaksin are violent.”
Critics in the Thai Press have not equally upset. One commentataor said: “These two men — Hun Sen and Thaksin — did nothing to help Suu Kyi fight the military dictators in Burma. But now that they want to use her for their political propaganda benefit, they have suddenly found it convenient to exploit her name. What a shame!”