PRIME Minister Hun Sen said Wednesday that frayed relations with Thailand cannot be normalised while the current Thai government is in power, accusing the neighbouring country of continuing to breach Cambodia’s border in disputed territory near Preah Vihear temple.
Speaking at a scholarship ceremony at the National Institute of Education, Hun Sen held forth on the diplomatic fallout that has followed in the wake of fugitive former Thai prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra’s visit to Cambodia last month as a newly appointed economic adviser to the government. Thailand withdrew its ambassador to Phnom Penh in protest of Thaksin’s appointment, with Cambodia immediately following suit.
“I will wait to see the establishment of a new government in Thailand, so that they will send back their ambassador,” Hun Sen said. “You accuse us of abusing the Thai justice system, but you forget to mention that you are invading Cambodian territory,” he added.
Hun Sen also defended the arrest of Sivarak Chutipong, a 31-year-old Thai engineer who received a prison sentence for leaking Thaksin’s flight schedule to the Thai embassy in November and was subsequently pardoned last week.
“If we did not act in advance, then for sure at this time, at this hour, Thaksin would be dead or jailed in a Thai prison,” Hun Sen said.
Sam Rainsy Party spokesman Yim Sovann said Hun Sen was playing “political games” in his dealings with Thailand, and questioned the necessity of Thaksin’s controversial appointment as government economics adviser.
Thaksin spoke with officials at the Council for the Development of Cambodia on Wednesday about tourism and foreign investment, though Yim Sovann said the former Thai leader’s counsel thus far has not been particularly revelatory.
“I have … noticed that what Thaksin advises the government of Cambodia is not different from what our Cambodian economic experts and what our MPs from the opposition party advise,” he said.
Though the SRP spokesman did not dispute Hun Sen and Thaksin’s characterisation of Sivarak as a “political victim”, he said that the Thai was not alone in this distinction.
“A lot of political victims are staying in Prey Sar prison,” he said.
In a statement on Wednesday, meanwhile, Thai Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya defended Kamrob Palawatwichai, the former first secretary of the Thai embassy in Phnom Penh. Kamrob was expelled by the Cambodian government last month for his alleged involvement in the leaking of Thaksin’s flight schedule.
“Kamrob performed his normal duty in accordance with Thai judicial enforcement to have extradition of convicted Thaksin,” Kasit said in a statement, according to Thailand’s The Nation newspaper.
In Jakarta, officials at the ASEAN secretariat urged Thailand and Cambodia to seek a diplomatic solution to their dispute.
“The dispute is one thing, but the most important thing is that the incident would not pose risk to the ASEAN’s solidarity,” ASEAN task force chairman Tommy Koh was quoted as saying by the Xinhua news agency, adding that members of the bloc have attempted to broker solutions to the conflict.