THAKSIN SETS ASIDE BUSINESS IN NEW ECONOMIC ROLE
Whatever motivated Thailand’s former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra to come to Cambodia as an economic adviser to the government, personal business interest does not appear to be a factor – at least for now. For the past year, the Thai press has speculated about Thaksin’s interests in Koh Kong province, but sources in Thailand say the recent diplomatic spat between the two countries has put paid to Thaksin’s investment plans. On Friday, The Nation newspaper quoted a source close to Thaksin as saying his plans would be “absolutely deferred” for two or three years due to the current volatile relationship. A day earlier, following his lecture at the Ministry of Economy and Finance last Thursday, Thaksin confirmed he had “no business here whatsoever”. In May 2008, Defence Minister Tea Banh said that Prime Minister Hun Sen “trusted and wanted Mr Thaksin to advise on developing Koh Kong as a special economic zone’’, as the first stage in turning the coastal province into a “second Hong Kong”. The Bangkok Post also quoted Tea Banh as saying that CPP Senator Ly Yongphat “was discussing the prospective investment in Koh Kong with Mr Thaksin”, which would include an entertainment complex and casino.Thaksin’s business connection with Cambodia began in 1998, when his Shin Corporation set up Cambodia Shinawatra Co Ltd, a telecoms provider currently operating under the Mfone brand. In 2006, the Shinawatra family sold its remaining stake in Shin Corp to Temasek Holdings, the Singapore government’s investment arm, cutting his businesss link with Cambodia.
AN official from the Thai embassy in Phnom Penh met with a Thai national accused of espionage at Prey Sar prison on Monday, Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman Koy Kuong said.
Thirty-one year old Siwarak Chotipong, an employee of Cambodia Air Traffic Services Co, is being held on suspicion of stealing the flight schedule of fugitive Thai former premier Thaksin Shinawatra at the behest of Kamrob Palawatwichai, the first secretary of the Thai embassy in Phnom Penh, National Police Deputy Chief Sok Phal said last week.
Kamrob was expelled by the Cambodian government last Thursday, and Thailand responded by expelling the first secretary of the Cambodian embassy in Bangkok. The countries had previously withdrawn their respective ambassadors in the row over Thaksin’s appointment as economics adviser to the Cambodian government and his visit to the Kingdom last week. Thailand has forcefully denied the allegations against Siwarak and Kamrob.
Koy Kuong said that following a request from the Thai embassy, the embassy’s charge d’affaires, Chalotorn Phaovibul, had been permitted to visit Siwarak on Monday afternoon.
Thai Ministry of Foreign Affairs deputy spokesman Thani Thongphakdi said as of Monday evening Bangkok had yet to receive confirmation of the visit. He added that the Thai government was treating Siwarak’s case “the same as the cases for which Thai nationals abroad need consular assistance”, providing assistance and legal advice but not formal legal representation.
Sok Roeun, deputy prosecutor at Phnom Penh Municipal Court, said an investigation of the case was ongoing but did not name a specific trial date.
Thaksin sought in Dubai
Panich Vikitsreth, vice minister at the Thai Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said he met United Arab Emirates ambassador Mohammed Ali Ahmed Omran Al Shamsi briefly on Monday “to discuss information related to Thaksin”.
Thaksin is believed to have spent most of his time in Dubai since self-exiling last year to avoid a prison term for corruption. Cambodia drew Thai criticism last week by refusing a request to extradite Thaksin during his time in Cambodia, which concluded on Saturday, describing his prosecution as “politically motivated”.
“The ambassador responded very warmly to our information. He affirmed the UAE’s principle that it will not allow anyone to use it as a political base to attack other countries,” Panich said.
ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY AFP AND THET SAMBATH