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Officials vague on Thaksin

Government officials have offered a noncommittal response to the question of whether ousted former Thai prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra will be allowed to stage another of his controversial visits to the Kingdom during the current Thai election campaign, in which his sister is a leading candidate for prime minister.

Thaksin, who was deposed in a 2006 military coup and lives abroad to avoid a jail term for graft, was appointed economics adviser to the Cambodian government in 2009. The appointment, along with Thaksin’s high-profile visits to the Kingdom in the months that followed, provoked the ire of his bitter rivals in the current Thai government of Abhisit Vejjajiva, which repeatedly requested his extradition to no avail.

Minister of Information Khieu Kanharith said yesterday Thaksin had yet to ask to return to Cambodia for the campaign.

“Up until now, we haven’t received any request from Thaksin,” he said, declining to comment on how the government would respond to such a request. Foreign Ministry spokesman Koy Kuong said he had “no information about Thaksin” and also could not comment.

During mass anti-government protests in Thailand last year that eventually turned violent and resulted in the deaths of more than 90 people, Hun Sen reportedly told officials from the Abhisit administration that Thaksin would not be allowed to visit Cambodia. Koy Kuong added at the time, however, that Thaksin remained Hun Sen’s “eternal friend”.

In a statement on Friday following the premier’s weekly cabinet meeting, the Council of Ministers said Hun Sen had “once again announced that he will not allow any foreigner or foreign political organisation to use Cambodia as a base to attack or overthrow the government of any foreign country”, though no specific individuals or countries were mentioned.

Thaksin announced his resignation from his government advisory post last year, prompting Cambodia and Thailand to return ambassadors that had been withdrawn in the row over his 2009 appointment.

Even while living abroad, Thaksin remains the most polarising figure in Thailand’s colour-coded politics, vehemently opposed by the conservative Yellow Shirts and lionised by the populist Red Shirts.

The opposition Puea Thai Party, aligned with the Red Shirts, has even tapped his younger sister, Yingluck Shinawatra, as its prime ministerial candidate.

Thailand’s elections will be held on July 3.



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