Full diplomatic relations with Thais to be restored
FUGITIVE former Thai prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra has resigned as economic adviser to the Cambodian government, officials said yesterday, bringing a quiet end to a diplomatic drama that plunged relations between the two countries to their lowest point in years.
Foreign Ministry spokesman Koy Kuong said Thaksin – who was ousted in a 2006 coup and fled Thailand in 2008 to avoid a jail term for graft – quit for “personal” reasons.
“This is his right, and we cannot reject it,” Koy Kuong said, though Thaksin remained the “eternal friend” of Prime Minister Hun Sen. Minister of Information Khieu Kanharith said Thaksin had resigned because he had “a lot of his own work” to do.
Thaksin, a sworn enemy of Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva and his government, has been trotting the globe since going into self-imposed exile. He is believed to be spending most of his time in Dubai, though he made several high-profile visits to Cambodia late last year following his appointment in October, lecturing government officials on economics and directing criticism at Abhisit.
When Thailand recalled its ambassador to Cambodia in protest against the appointment, Cambodia responded in kind and rejected Bangkok’s request for Thaksin’s extradition.
Thani Thongphakdi, deputy spokesman of the Thai Foreign Ministry, said yesterday that Thaksin’s resignation was cause for a resumption of full diplomatic ties.
“The Thai foreign minister is very pleased to learn that the Cambodian government has released a statement [saying] Thaksin Shinawatra has resigned from his position in Cambodia,” he said.
“As a consequence, the Thai foreign minister has instructed the Thai ambassador to return to Cambodia [today], because the developments that led to the recall of the ambassador are no longer necessary.
“He believes the relations between both sides will strengthen.”
Koy Kuong said Cambodian Ambassador You Ay would be restored to her post in Bangkok tomorrow.
Pavin Chachavalpongpun, a fellow at Singapore’s Institute of Southeast Asian Studies, said the resignation was likely a bid by the exiled Thaksin to keep his name in the headlines at home, after this year’s violent series of antigovernment protests took place without him.
“People talk less and less about Thaksin,” Pavin said. “I think he realises that he has been marginalised in Thai politics.”
Koy Kuong said Thaksin’s resignation was “not linked” to the long-simmering border dispute between Thailand and Cambodia that flared up this month following the conclusion of a UNESCO World Heritage Committee meeting in Brazil , at which Cambodian officials submitted a management plan for Preah Vihear temple.
The resumption of diplomatic ties, however, would likely be a positive step towards resolving the disagreement, said Hang Chhaya, executive director of the Khmer Institute for Democracy. “Diplomacy had been happening through the media,” he said. “It’s up to the two countries now to work this out using diplomatic relations.”
ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY CAMERON WELLS AND JAMES O’TOOLE