Cambodian officials say Prime Minister Hun Sen will “absolutely not” discuss allegations that anti-government activists from Thailand received weapons training in Cambodia during a meeting later this month with Thai premier Abhisit Vejjajiva.
On Monday, an official from Thailand’s Department of Special Investigation reportedly alleged that a group of 11 antigovernment Red Shirt activists arrested in Thailand this month had received instruction from Cambodian troops during a three-week training session in the Kingdom earlier this year.
The activists, DSI investigator Payao Thongsen reportedly said, were part of a group of 39 people preparing to assassinate Abhisit and other Thai public figures.
Cambodian officials have strongly denied the allegations.
“The report from the Thai department of special investigation is rubbish and could provoke tension between the two countries, whose relations have been steadily improving,” Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman Koy Kuong said.
"Samdech [Hun Sen] will absolutely not discuss the case of the Red Shirts with Abhisit because it never happened, and Cambodia has rejected these allegations many times already."
Thailand’s MCOT state news agency and the Bangkok Post quoted Thai government spokesman Panitan Wattanayagorn as saying that Abhisit would “seek clarification” on the matter from Hun Sen when the two attend a meeting of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations in Hanoi later this month.
Reached by phone, Panitan said only that Abhisit was looking forward to a “fruitful” discussion with Hun Sen in Hanoi.
“The Thai government does not accuse our neighbours of wrongdoing,” Panitan said
The Bangkok Post has also reported that Thawil Pliensri, the secretary general of Thailand’s national security council, said it was true that the Red Shirts had undergone weapons training in Cambodia, but stressed the Thai government was “not making any accusation” against Cambodia.
The allegations come amid a period of otherwise-warming relations between the two countries.
After nearly a year of acrimony related to their border dispute and Cambodia’s appointment of ousted former Thai prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra as an economics adviser, Abhisit and Hun Sen have held face-to-face meetings twice in recent weeks, first in New York and then in Brussels.
In August, the countries restored their respective ambassadors, who had been withdrawn for the past nine months after Thailand protested Thaksin’s appointment. A bitter rival of Abhisit, Thaksin is wanted in his home country on graft charges and lives in exile.
Minister of Information Khieu Kanharith said that the allegations were a “trick” by Thailand.
“The officials who are in charge of this matter should walk away from their posts,” Khieu Kanharith said.
Pavin Chachavalpongpun, a fellow at Singapore’s Institute of Southeast Asian Studies, said in an email that the matter should have been handled through diplomatic channels rather than through the media.
“The fact that the DSI has revealed these allegations makes me wonder if this is another political tool of the elite to gain political points,” Pavin said.
“Do not forget that part of the military has supported the [anti-Thaksin] Yellow Shirts, who have continued to politicise the temple issue, and the DSI was supposedly founded as an anti-Thaksin machinery,” he added.
“There are valid reasons to believe that the allegations are publicised to affect relations with Cambodia.”