Prime Minister Hun Sen said yesterday that his government will work with the Thai junta that came to power in a coup last week, and quashed speculation that the ousted Shinawatra clan may be allowed to set up a government in exile in Cambodia.
In a speech to about 3,000 university graduates from the Royal University of Phnom Penh at the Koh Pich Exhibition Center, Hun Sen said Cambodia’s constitution and its membership in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations prevented it from interfering in the “internal affairs” of countries in the region.
“Cambodia has considered the situation in Thailand, which is the internal affairs of Thailand, and Cambodia will not interfere with its internal affairs,” he said. “Now, a military government has been approved by the Thai king, and I hope that former prime ministers Thaksin and Yingluck [Shinawatra] … will understand Cambodia’s stance.”
The Thai military coup followed six months of political deadlock and violent street protests that left at least 28 people dead.
Hun Sen’s remarks came days after a statement from Thaksin’s lawyer, Robert Amsterdam, saying that “a number of foreign governments have already expressed their willingness to host such a government in exile under internationally established rules and practice”, prompting speculation that Cambodia had been approached.
While two senior government officials said earlier this week that the government in exile would not be allowed, ruling Cambodian People’s Party lawmaker Cheam Yeap on Sunday told the Post that although the constitution prohibited such a move, the final decision would be down to the prime minister.
But Hun Sen yesterday said that despite his close personal relationship with Thaksin – he welcomed the ousted prime minister in 2009 as an economic adviser, triggering a diplomatic row with the Thais – to host such a government in exile would be unconstitutional.
“I’d like to stress that Cambodia is not the location for any country or group, even Thaksin’s group, to form a government in exile,” he said. “Cambodia’s constitution does not permit any foreigners to use its territory as a base to create armed forces to attack the government of another country.”
He added that, as Cambodia shares a border with Thailand, it is important to continue to maintain good relations and cooperation despite the military takeover.
“There is no other choice, because Thailand has a military-ruled government now, so it is inevitable that we have to work with the military government,” he said.
More than 100 Thai opposition figures, activists, academics and journalists have been summoned to report to the military authorities in Bangkok since the coup. Many of those who went to the military voluntarily have been detained.
Analysts yesterday welcomed Hun Sen’s comments.
Political commentator Kem Ley agreed that to allow such a government in exile would be unconstitutional.
“I appreciate his speech. Cambodia’s constitution says clearly that Cambodia is independent, neutral and sovereign. It does not allow any group or country to cooperate against another. Within the ASEAN charter, it clearly declares no country can interfere in the political and internal affairs [of member states],” he said.
“We [also] learned that [the late King Norodom] Sihanouk lost because he fought against South Vietnam and we learned a terrible history from this. And right now, Cambodian people are concerned about the high tension between China and Vietnam.”
Analyst Chea Vannath agreed, saying: “It is a perfect position for the government, so it will not interfere in the internal affairs of other countries. Cambodia can maintain its political stability.”