Friday, January 29, 2010

Thai fugitive ex-premier Thaksin ends third Cambodia visit (Roundup)

Phnom Penh - Thailand's fugitive former premier Thaksin Shinawatra left Cambodia for Dubai Thursday afternoon following an overnight visit, Cambodian government spokesman Prak Sokhon said.

The visit was Thaksin's third to the Cambodian capital since being named an economic adviser to the government there in October, a move that put further strains on the already tense relationship between Thailand and Cambodia.

Prak Sokhon said he did not know whether Thaksin had met members of Puea Thai, the opposition political party in Thailand with which he is linked, during his stay.

On previous visits to Cambodia Thaksin met his political supporters from Thailand, who have vowed to escalate anti-government protests there.

Describing Thaksin's stay in Cambodia as 'a stopover' en route to Dubai, Prak Sokhon said the former premier had not discussed the economy with government officials or with Prime Minister Hun Sen, with whom he dined Wednesday evening.

'When politicians meet politicians, they talk about politics,' he said.

The visit was unlikely to improve ties between Thailand and Cambodia, which remain at their lowest level in years.

Cambodia appointed Thaksin, who has a two-year jail sentence still to serve in Thailand for abuse of power, as an economic adviser to the government and to Hun Sen.

Those appointments and Phnom Penh's refusal to extradite Thaksin outraged Bangkok and saw both countries withdraw their ambassadors and senior embassy staff. The ambassadors have yet to return.

This month, the Cambodian government rejected a demand by Thai Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya that Phnom Penh dismiss Thaksin as an adviser before relations between the two countries could improve.

Bangkok considers the appointment of Thaksin, the de facto opposition leader, as interference in its internal politics.

Thaksin was prime minister of Thailand from 2001 to 2006 before being toppled in a bloodless coup. He fled the country and has lived in self-imposed exile, mostly in Dubai, since August 2008.

The relationship between the two neighbours has been tense for more than a year with a number of clashes reported between their troops over a disputed piece of land near the 11th-century Preah Vihear border temple in northern Cambodia.

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