Former Thai prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra may meet with Prime Minister Hun Sen during the remainder of his stay here, a “red-shirt” representative said yesterday.
“Dr Thaksin may spend his time to meet with Prime Minister Hun Sen today or tomorrow before he leaves, secretary general of the United Front for Democracy Against Dictatorship Krirkmontri Rujsodirapath said.
Several Cambodian government officials contacted were unable to confirm the meeting.
Thaksin arrived in Siem Reap on Saturday, where he celebrated the new year with about 30,000 supporters.
Krirkmontri said the Cambodian government’s support reflected the warm relations between the countries.
“I think Cambodia and Thailand are the same as a brother or sister and the warm welcome for our gathering in Siem Reap province is a positive message that we have a strong relationship,” said Krirkmontri.
Thaksin reportedly told the assembled masses of his adoring red-shirt fans on Saturday that he would return to Thailand soon, where he still faces a criminal charge that led him to flee the country after being ousted as prime minister in a 2006 coup.
Carlyle Thayer, politics professor at the University of New South Wales, said any such move could derail positive steps the two countries had made toward resolving their border dispute over the Preah Vihear temple area, since Thaksin’s sister, Yingluck, was elected Thai premier last year.
“It could revive nationalism as a domestic issue in Thailand. In other words, it’s best to let sleeping dogs lie. Let the General Border Committee deal with it. Keep it on the low boil rather than over heating it,” he said.
Lao Monghay, an independent Cambodian political analyst, said the gathering showed a strong personal relationship between Thaksin and Hun Sen, but could potentially be seen as external interference.
“I think the Cambodian government was interfering with the internal politics of Thailand,” said Monghay.
Meanwhile, spokesperson for the opposition Sam Rainsy Party, Yim Sovann, said the decision to suspend the entry fee to Angkor Wat for Thaksin supporters could cost the country up to US$1 million in revenue.
“I think that Cambodian people are poor if compared to the Thai population, therefore they [Thais] should pay for the entrance cost to the temple,” he said.
Thong Khon, Minister of Tourism, defended the decision, saying a special exception had been made for the red shirts and that it would boost Cambodia’s tourism image among Thais.