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Thaksin to pay a visit

Prime Minister Hun Sen said yesterday that he would not discuss bilateral issues between Cambodia and Thailand, including potential oil and gas deals, with former Thai prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra during his expected nine-day visit to the Kingdom starting on Friday.

“I will not talk with Thaksin on any issues that are related to the interests of the two countries,” Hun Sen said in a speech at a graduation ceremony at Diamond Island in the capital yesterday.

“I would like to confirm that Thaksin has no duty to negotiate on oil and gas deals and other issues with Cambodia at all, because it is the duty of the [new] Thai government and since Thaksin was ousted by the coup he has never negotiated as a representative of Thailand.”

In his speech, Hun Sen blasted former Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva and members of the Thai Democratic Party for accusing Thaksin of having secret oil and gas interests in Cambodia.

On August 30, the Cambodian National Petroleum Authority released a letter in response to these claims revealing “secret” talks on disputed offshore petroleum and natural gas resources between high-ranking Thai and Cambodian officials during the Abhisit Vejjajiva administration.

In 2001, Cambodia and Thailand signed a memorandum of understanding mapping out joint management of petroleum resources in the 27,000 square-kilometre Overlapping Claims Area in the Gulf of Thailand. The agreement was put on hold by Bangkok in November 2009 following the appointment of Thaksin as an economic advisor to Cambodia.

Thaksin is expected to remain in the Kingdom until September 24, where he will deliver a lecture on economics to government officials, Hun Sen said in his speech.

“On September 18, I will play golf with Thaksin ... and on September 24, I will play football [with Puea Thai lawmakers at Olympic Stadium] and I am a coach bearing T-shirt number 9 and will welcome Thaksin if he desires to watch the football,” the premier said.

Thaksin is due to arrive in Cambodia a day after the planned one-day visit of his sister and newly-elected Thai Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra, who came to power last month following a landslide electoral victory in July.

According to a press release issued by  the Ministry of Foreign Affairs yesterday, Yingluck will hold talks with Hun Sen and be received in a royal audience with King Norodom Sihamoni.

Pavin Chachavalpongpun, a fellow at Singapore’s Institute of Southeast Asian Studies, said via email yesterday that under the new Thai government, the two countries may feel it timely to discuss the issue of the OCA. “If this is an introductory visit, I guess maybe Yingluck may want to avoid controversy, but she might think it is now time to raise the issue,” Pavin said.

The Bangkok Post reported Thai officials as saying last week that Yingluck and Thaksin both planned to discuss the conflict around Preah Vihear temple and the two countries’ disputed maritime area during their visits to the Kingdom. They would also discuss the release of two imprisoned Thai Yellow Shirt activists who were jailed for espionage earlier this year, the Bangkok Post reported.

Foreign Affairs Ministry spokesman Koy Kuong said yesterday that he was not aware of the agenda of the meeting between the two leaders, but that the government stood by the enforcement of Cambodian law.

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