Monday, 9 November 2009

Thailand, Cambodia leave leeway for relaxation of tension

November 09, 2009

(Posted by CAAI News Media)

Thailand and Cambodia recalled their respective ambassadors on Nov. 5 after Phnom Penh appointed former Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra as an economic adviser of Cambodia and personal advisor to Prime Minister Hun Sen, and strained bilateral ties thus further escalated. Both sides, however, still leave some leeway for the relaxation of tension between them.

Prime Minister Hun Sen on Sunday afternoon announced that ousted Thai premier Thaksin Shinawatra would visit Cambodia this week in his new role as economic adviser to his government. Moreover, Hun Sen said, Thaksin would address a group of 300 Cambodians. "Thaksin will be at the Minister of Economy and Finance on Nov. 12 to do a briefing with 300 Cambodian economic experts," he told a new conference at Phnom Penh International Airport. Apparently, this move of his showed to the world that he was not scared or "intimidated" by Bangkok's recall of its ambassador to Cambodia.

Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen appointed Thaksin as his economic adviser, and criticized or decried judicial injustice in Thailand, thus seriously hurting the national dignity or self-respect of Thai people. A Thai newspaper named "Bangkok Post", therefore, in an editorial referred to this act as "a huge slap in the face of Thailand."

Subsequently, Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva in his television address on Sunday, November 8th defended his own actions in an ongoing spat and called on Thais to get united and "to protect the honor" or pride of his country.

Thailand is angrily claiming that Thaksin's acceptance of Hun Sen's appointment is definitely dwarfing or "downgrading" the former Thai prime minister himself and the whole Thailand as well, some Thai media have commented.

Recent polls indicate that most Thais do not favor or endorse the move of Thaksin Shinawata's. On the contrary, a latest poll put the support rate of incumbent Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva at 69 percent as against the previous rate of 23 percent,for the popularity of the Abhisit Vejjajiva government has soared after its diplomatic protest against Phnom Penh's appointment of Thaksin Shinawata as Cambodia's economic adviser and ensuing announcement for the withdrawal of Thai ambassador from Cambodia.

Nevertheless, Thailand has underscored that it has gone into actions to prompt Hun Sen to change his mind instead of making things worse. Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva on Sunday, Nov. 8th noted that the Thai-Cambodian diplomatic ties would not affect the bilateral economic and trade relations between the two Southeast Asian neighbors. Meanwhile, Hun Sen also announced in Phnom Penh Sunday that he would withdraw an elite unit of paratroopers (Brigade 911) from disputed territory near a historic border temple, Preah Vihear Temple, where Thailand maintains it is its territory.

Furthermore, the International community is reluctant to see the strained Thai-Cambodian relations deteriorating. Singaporean foreign minister George Yeo has also said that he did not want to see the strained Thai-Cambodian ties would affect negatively the ASEAN's image.

Meanwhile, Dr. Surin Pitsuwan, the secretary general of the ASEAN, acknowledged that the APEC CEO Summit will be held in Singapore in mid November 2009 alongside the APEC Learders' Meeting as well as the ASEAN-U.S. Summit. At this critical moment, the ASEAN Secretary General appealed for Cambodian-Thai maximum restraint and called on ASEAN foreign ministers to assist the two ASEAN member states to settle their bilateral disputes amicably and as soon as possible.

By People's Daily resident reporter in Thailand Ren Jianmin and translated by PD Online

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