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Hun Sen raises stakes in border closure row

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Thaksin schedules visit to Cambodia

Bangkok Post and Agencies

PHNOM PENH : Thaksin Shinawatra will visit Cambodia this week after being named the country's economic adviser, Prime Minister Hun Sen says.

"Thaksin will be at the Ministry of Economy and Finance on Nov 12, to hold a briefing with more than 300 Cambodian economics experts," Hun Sen said at Phnom Penh International Airport.

The visit is likely to increase tensions between Cambodia and Thailand, which have escalated since Wednesday when Cambodia announced the appointment of Thaksin as an adviser to the prime minister and the government. Both countries have since recalled their ambassadors.

Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva yesterday said Thailand would seek the extradition of Thaksin if he was on Cambodian soil. The two countries have an extradition agreement.

Thaksin was convicted by a Thai court last year for conflict of interest in a property deal, but while on bail he fled into exile overseas.

The Foreign Ministry has to identify Thaksin's exact location and then contact the Office of the Attorney-General to start the extradition process.

The ministry will use its diplomatic channels to contact the Cambodian government on the extradition.

Chief prosecutor for foreign affairs Sirisak Tiyaphan said the OAG would speed up the process if it was contacted by the ministry. But he indicated it could be hard to pin down Thaksin's exact whereabouts.

Mr Abhisit said Thaksin's extradition would rest with Cambodia.

Hun Sen refused to say exactly when Thaksin would arrive.

Cambodia said last week the charges against Thaksin were "politically motivated" and vowed not to extradite him if he travelled to the country.

"Please let Thaksin share my burden of boosting the economy of Cambodia," Hun Sen appealed to Thais yesterday.

But the Cambodian prime minister also downplayed tensions at the border, announcing the withdrawal of elite paratroopers from disputed territory near Preah Vihear temple.

"After examining the situation at the border between Cambodia and Thailand, the situation was quiet," he said. "So I announce the withdrawal of special paratroopers from the area at Preah Vihear temple, and their return to the headquarters.

"The implementation will be finished within a week."

Hun Sen, however, left open the possibility of shutting the border entirely, responding to a threat made by Thailand last week.

"If you want to close, close it. The loss will be mutual," said Hun Sen, pointing out that Thailand had more to lose in terms of border trade profit.

"If Thais want to close the border, Cambodia will follow. If Thais close the border, all trade between Cambodia and Thailand will be cut off."

Commander Chab Pheakdey, head of the paratrooper unit, refused to divulge the number of soldiers that would be withdrawn.

Meanwhile, the Thai cabinet will officially scrap a memorandum of understanding with Cambodia on an overlapping maritime boundary tomorrow, a Foreign Ministry source said.

The memo is a framework for officials to negotiate demarcation of the area in the Gulf of Thailand and on joint deals to develop gas and oil there.

The end of the agreement does not take immediate effect as Thailand is required to inform Cambodia three months in advance of the decision. Parliament is also debating its response to the row.



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