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Govt hails Thai election

Thai elections Cambodian reaction

Chamroen Pheap, 66, sells drinks by Phnom Penh riverside.

I am so old that I don’t know much about how Thai policy affects Cambodia. I do know that our country needs to stay away from war. My husband and children died during war in 1977 and now I am alone. So, Thailand must not create conflict with Cambodia.

Chan Sokhum, aged 36, works for a private company.

Abhisit wanted to create conflict with Cambodia and now he is feeling the results of the election. I hope that the new Thai government and the Cambodian government will work together peacefully. I have waited for this day for a long time. We want to have peace.

Chhouen Sengheang, 18, is a first year banking student at Norton University

Outside of the problems at the border and Preah Vihear, areas such as diplomacy and commercial business will be vastly improved. I hope Thailand will have a fresh start after the election of the country’s first female prime minister.

Pha Long, 25, studies management at Build Bright University in Phnom Penh.

I was surprised when Abhisit lost the election. I think that although  this event happened in Thailand it will affect Cambodia.  As we know Yingluck is a sister of Thaksin and Thaksin is a friend of our country. So the new leader will follow Thaksin’s policy.

Foreign Minister Hor Namhong yesterday cheered the victory of Thailand’s Puea Thai party in the country’s national elections on Sunday, as analysts were cautiously optimistic that the change in government could ease tensions between the two countries.

Speaking to reporters yesterday following the signing of an aid agreement with Japan, Hor Namhong said the Cambodian government “cannot hide” its pleasure at Puea Thai’s victory over the Democrat Party of outgoing Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva.

Tensions along the border between Thailand and Cambodia have been heightened over the past few months, twice spilling over into violence – in February, near Preah Vihear temple, when at least 10 people where killed, and in April and May, near Oddar Meanchey province,  killing at least 18.

“It is true, we cannot hide the fact that we are happy with the victory of the Puea Thai Party in Bangkok. We hope that the new government in Thailand that is organised by Puea Thai will resolve issues with Cambodia more positively and more peacefully,” Hor Namhong said.

“What we want is a peaceful solution. We don’t want anything from Thailand other than a fair solution, peaceful and in accordance with international law.”

Puea Thai’s incoming prime minister, Yingluck Shinawatra, reportedly said yesterday that the restoration of ties with neighbouring countries would be a priority for the new government, Bangkok’s The Nation newspaper said. Yingluck apparently did not mention a specific country, but was understood to be referring to Cambodia.

The border tensions between Thailand and Cambodia focus largely on Preah Vihear, kicking up following the inscription of the temple as a UNESCO World Heritage site for Cambodia in 2008. Thai Foreign Minister Noppadon Pattama had supported Cambodia in the run-up to the temple’s inscription, but was later forced to resign over the issue amid pressure from hard-line nationalists who accused him of selling out Thai territory along the border.

Noppadon served in a government aligned with former Thai premier Thaksin Shinawatra, who was ousted in a 2006 coup and lives abroad to avoid a jail term on graft charges. Yingluck is Thaksin’s younger sister and is widely expected to hew closely to his policies – Thaksin himself has referred to her as his “clone”.

Having been unable to return to Thailand since 2008, Thaksin has trotted the globe over the past few years, memorably touching down in Cambodia several times in 2009 and 2010 after Prime Minister Hun Sen named him an economics adviser. Analysts said the appointment was intended as a jab at Abhisit, a bitter enemy of Thaksin who has come under harsh criticism from Hun Sen.

The premier said in 2009 that he was “waiting for the next Thai government”, later saying Abhisit had “no family honour” and calling the Democrat leader the most difficult Thai PM he had ever worked with. By contrast, Hun Sen has termed Thaksin his “eternal friend”, and Lao Mong Hay, a former researcher with the Asian Human Rights Commission, said the election of a pro-Thaksin government in Bangkok
is likely to improve relations between the two sides.

“I think it should ease the tensions, and then perhaps Thaksin will step in again behind the scenes,” Lao Mong Hay said. “We have to be patient and let the new government settle down and sort out the
mess left over by the outgoing government.”

Even with the overwhelming victory scored by Puea Thai, though, there is concern that the new government could be forced out through a military coup, as Thaksin was in 2006, or through a court decision, as was the fate of pro-Thaksin prime ministers Samak Sundaravej and Somchai Wongsawat in 2008.

In response to such concerns, outgoing Defence Minister Prawit Wongsuwon told Agence   France-Presse following the polls that the military “will not get involved” this time around.

Puangthong Pawakapan, a professor at Bangkok’s Chulalongkorn University and an expert on Thai-Cambodian relations, said yesterday that Puea Thai would likely tread carefully in handling the border issue, wary of the passions it arouses in some quarters. Unlike the outgoing government, however, she said the Yingluck administration would likely be uninterested in politicising the issue.

“I think Puea Thai realise that they have to try to solve this Preah Vihear temple issue,” Puangthong said. “The new minister of foreign affairs needs to have the guts to fight against the misinformation created by the nationalists and be firm on the previous positions taken by Samak Sundaravej – that supporting Cambodia’s World Heritage inscription will not affect Thai territory at all.”

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