Saturday, 24 October 2009

Hun Sen, Abhisit start summit war of words

Published: 24/10/2009

(Posted by CAAI News Media)

CHA-AM : A war of words between the Thai and Cambodian leaders has erupted as Southeast Asian leaders begin talks at the Asean summit aimed at fostering ties among 10 members.

The conflict centred on deposed prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra after Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen on Wednesday offered his country as a temporary home for him.

Hun Sen reaffirmed his position yesterday and went even further by saying Thaksin could become Phnom Penh's economic adviser.

Hun Sen also indirectly compared Thaksin to Burmese Nobel Peace Prize laureate Aung San Suu Kyi and said he considered Thaksin to be a victim of the 2006 military coup.

"What is the purpose of Prime Minister Hun Sen coming to Thailand?" said Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva in a press conference held after his Cambodian counterpart spoke to reporters. "And what has he said that was in line with the aim of the meeting?"

The prime minister said Asean emphasised building a stronger community with unity.

"(Asean) has no time to pay attention to a person who wants to destroy Asean unity. And I hope Prime Minister Hun Sen will receive the right information and change his mind on the matter."

Mr Abhisit countered his Cambodian counterpart's remarks made shortly after arriving in Cha-am district of Phetchaburi to attend the summit.

"Many people are talking about Mrs Suu Kyi of Burma. Why can't I talk about the victim, Thaksin?" said Hun Sen. "That cannot be regarded as interference by Cambodia into Thai internal affairs," he said.

"Without the coup d'etat in 2006, such a thing would not have happened," he added.

The Cambodian leader made clear his government will not send Thaksin back to serve his jail term in Thailand if he stays on Cambodian soil.

Article 3 of the extradition treaty between Thailand and Cambodia says that the country asked to extradite someone has the legal grounds to absolutely reject any extradition if it considers the request involves a political offence, he said.

Prior to his arrival in Thailand, the Cambodian government issued a statement outlining the decision by Hun Sen over his offer to Thaksin.

"Allowing Mr Thaksin to stay in Cambodia is reflecting the virtuous behaviour of Prime Minister Hun Sen, who is Thaksin's long time friend.

"This virtuous attitude is not interpreted as interference in Thailand's internal affairs," said the statement obtained by the Bangkok Post.

Hun Sen said he was not interfering in Thailand's problems.

"This is just moral support from me. As one million Thai people of the red shirt group support Thaksin, why can't I, as a friend from afar, support Thaksin?" said the Cambodian leader.

Problems in Thailand should be solved by Thais, he added.

Mr Abhisit, however, argued that Hun Sen might have got the wrong information about Thaksin who could not be compared with Mrs Suu Kyi.

"There are few people in the world who believe (the case of) Thaksin is similar to that of Mrs Suu Kyi," Mr Abhisit said. "I don't know where he got the information."

The case of Mrs Suu Kyi was a resolution where Asean had a common stance and it could not be compared with Thaksin's, he said, apparently referring to the Asean statement calling for the release of the Burmese opposition leader.

Mr Abhisit said the Cambodian government should not say in advance that it would not extradite Thaksin if he takes refuge in Cambodia.

"It is a process from both sides to prove if the case is a matter of politics or corruption," said Mr Abhisit.

Hun Sen should "think carefully" and focus on bilateral relations and benefits to the two countries, Mr Abhisit said, adding: "I hope I will have a chance to make him understand."

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