SENIOR Thai officials said Thursday they would seek the extradition of deposed premier Thaksin Shinawatra if he takes up Prime Minister Hun Sen’s offer to stay in Cambodia.
Thai Deputy Prime Minister Suthep Thaugsuban told reporters in Bangkok that Hun Sen should not be meddling in Thailand’s affairs after he reportedly said that Thaksin had not received justice at home.
Thaksin, who was ousted from power in a 2006 coup, continues to live in exile after fleeing Thailand in August last year to avoid a two-year jail term for corruption.
“We have an extradition treaty with Cambodia, so if Thaksin goes there we will officially notify the Cambodian government and seek his extradition,” Suthep said. “This is Thailand’s own internal affair, and we can solve this issue by ourselves.”
Cambodia’s state-run TVK television said Wednesday that Hun Sen made the invitation during a private meeting Wednesday with Chavalit Yongchaiyudh, another former Thai prime minister who recently joined the opposition Puea Thai party, with which Thaksin is associated.
Thaksin, on his online Twitter feed, thanked Hun Sen for his controversial invitation but stopped short of accepting it.
“I thank Prime Minister Hun Sen for telling the public that I am still his friend and that he would welcome me at any time and arrange a house for me in Phnom Penh,” Thaksin wrote.
Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva urged Hun Sen to keep friendship and politics separate.
“I have told Hun Sen that anyone who is appointed to an important position must separate personal relations,” he said, adding that he expected extradition proceedings to begin immediately if Thaksin were to travel to Cambodia.
“If Cambodia failed to comply with the [extradition] treaty, that would be another story,” he said.
Phay Siphan, spokesman for the Council of Ministers, said it was “premature” to comment on Thaksin, but added that Hun Sen’s offer to the fugitive former premier was not an invitation to launch a political comeback from Cambodian soil.
“The PM offered that if [Thaksin] travels to Cambodia, he would have a place to stay but not a place to live,” he said.
Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman Koy Kuong said there had been “no discussion” of Cambodia’s offering Thaksin official asylum, adding that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs is not necessarily notified about travellers who make private visits to Cambodia.
ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY AFP AND SEBASTIAN STRANGIO