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PM to visit troops near Thailand

PRIME Minister Hun Sen announced Wednesday that he will visit troops near the Thai border in Battambang province this week, and he denied that the trip was linked to an impending verdict in Thailand on the seizure of fugitive former Thai prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra’s assets.

On Friday, Thailand’s supreme court will decide whether to seize more than 76 billion baht (US$2.3 billion) of Thaksin’s assets based on allegations that he abused his political power for business interests. Tensions are high as the antigovernment Red Shirts, with whom Thaksin is aligned, have vowed to stage massive protests in the aftermath of the decision, alleging “double standards” in the Thai judicial system.

Hun Sen used a visit to the border earlier this month as an opportunity to launch severe criticisms at the government of current Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva, but he insisted that his trip to Battambang on Saturday is unrelated to the goings-on in Thailand.

“It is a habitual and normal visit to the soldiers – do not try to link the problems in Bangkok on February 26 to my visit on February 27,” Hun Sen said, speaking at a ceremony for 1,000 new graduates at the Royal University of Phnom Penh.

On March 5, Hun Sen added, soldiers in Kampong Chhnang province will conduct military exercises in which they will launch BM-21 rockets.
Though the rockets are capable of travelling 40 kilometres, Hun Sen said troops would be shooting them less than half that distance during the
exercises.

“We have kept them in the warehouse for too long, and it is time to use them,” Hun Sen said. “We are not flexing our muscles – this is work to strengthen the abilities of the military in national defence.”

Thai troops conducted similar military exercises near the border earlier this month, Cambodian military officials have said.

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