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Former Thai PM lands in Cambodia

Monday, November 9, 2009

Thaksin Shinawatra (File image 13.9.08)
Mr Thaksin remains a highly divisive figure in Thailan
Fugitive former Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra has landed in the Cambodian capital to take up a job as economic adviser to the government.

He was sentenced in absentia to two years in jail in neighbouring Thailand in a conflict of interest case.

Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen offered Mr Thaksin the advisory post on the eve of a regional summit hosted by Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva.

The Thai government has expressed anger and embarrassment about the deal.

Ties between Cambodia and Thailand have been tense in recent months as disputes around a cross-border temple complex have flared.

Cross-border cross-ness

Mr Thaksin exited a small private airplane at Phnom Penh International Airport and was then escorted into the Cambodian capital by a convoy of cars under tight security, said an AFP photographer at the scene.

"Thaksin is now in Cambodia. He flew in on a special flight and just landed at the military airport," said Khieu Kanharith, Cambodian information minister and the top government spokesman.

"We are looking forward to learning from Thaksin's great economic experience and we are convinced that his experience will contribute to our country's economic development," he said.

Mr Thaksin, a former telecoms billionaire, is in self-imposed exile and spends much of his time in Dubai.

He is scheduled to give a lecture on Thursday to 300 economists at the ministry of finance.

Thailand's government is outraged at the Cambodian move, and at Cambodia's apparent rejection of Thailand's judicial imperative to send Mr Thaksin to jail.

The Thai government and its supporters also fear that Mr Thaksin could use his new home just across the border as a campaign base.

Mr Abhisit's government was appointed after defections in parliament followed a period of military rule since the coup in 2006 which deposed Mr Thaksin.

It recalled its ambassador from Cambodia over its appointment of Mr Thaksin after Cambodia would refuse to extradite the tycoon because it considered him a victim of political persecution.

A government spokesman told the BBC that Cambodia valued Mr Thaksin's leadership qualities and business experience and that he would be an asset to the country.



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