Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Cambodian PM says Thai government will not survive

PHNOM PENH — Cambodian premier Hun Sen Tuesday stoked a diplomatic row with Thailand, saying the neighbouring country's government would not survive and branding its foreign minister the "chief of terrorists".

Ties between the two nations, which have fought a string of deadly border clashes, hit a new low late last year when Phnom Penh appointed former Thai prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra as an economics adviser.

Hun Sen told a student graduation ceremony that the current Thai government would "not have long to live" and vowed to wait for a new administration to take power in Bangkok before fully restoring diplomatic relations.

Thailand and Cambodia recalled their ambassadors in November and expelled senior diplomats over Hun Sen's appointment of Thaksin, who is living abroad to avoid a jail term for corruption in his home country.

Diplomatic tensions soared further when Phnom Penh then refused to extradite Thaksin during his first visit to Cambodia in his new role.

Thai premier Abhisit Vejjajiva took office in December 2008 and must call an election by December 2011. He came to power after a blockade of Bangkok's airports in 2008 helped bring down the previous, pro-Thaksin government.

Hun Sen criticised Thai foreign minister Kasit Piromya for his involvement in the blockade, which was carried out by the royalist "Yellow Shirt" movement that also helped spark the coup that toppled Thaksin in 2006.

"You are the chief of terrorists in the siege of the airports, because some Cambodians were also hostages at the airports," Hun Sen said Tuesday, referring to Kasit.

Kasit is a favourite target of the Cambodian strongman after allegedly calling Hun Sen a "gangster" in a parliamentary debate last year. The Thai minister said at the time that his comments had been translated incorrectly.

Hun Sen also restated Cambodia's claim to disputed land around an ancient temple on the border between the two countries, a row that has sparked a series of clashes since mid-2008 in which seven people have died.

Thai media reported Tuesday that Thaksin would visit Cambodia again in late January to better coordinate fresh anti-government protests in Thailand by his own supporters, known as the "Red Shirts".

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