Tuesday, 1 December 2009

PM orders Thai loans halted

(Posted by CAAI News Media)

Tuesday, 01 December 2009 15:02 Cheang Sokha and James O’toole

PRIME Minister Hun Sen lashed out at the Thai government on Monday, instructing Cambodian officials to review all bilateral agreements with the neighbouring country and ordering the cessation of all its loans and grants to Cambodia.

Speaking at the opening of the Luong Preah Sdech Korn resort in Kampong Cham province, the prime minister accused the government of Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva of insulting Cambodia and warned his subordinates against applying for Thai aid.

“Anyone who dares to ask for assistance from Thailand without my permission should resign. We may be poor, but we would rather shed our blood than let you look down on us,” Hun Sen said, apparently addressing Abhisit.

Tensions between the two governments have been heightened since fugitive Thai former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra visited Cambodia last month in his capacity as newly appointed economics adviser to the Royal government, and the government denied a request by Thailand to extradite him. Hun Sen laid the blame for the dispute squarely on Thailand, however, calling Abhisit the most difficult of the 10 Thai premiers he has dealt with and reserving especially pointed words for Abhisit’s foreign minister, Kasit Piromya.

“In diplomatic relations, Kasit is a gangster,” Hun Sen said, referencing the controversy that erupted earlier this year when a tape emerged of Kasit levying the same insult against Hun Sen. Kasit has said he was attempting to pay Hun Sen a compliment that was lost in translation.

Thai Ministry of Foreign Affairs deputy spokesman Thani Thongphakdi said Thailand was in the process of communicating with Cambodia about the countries’ bilateral agreements. The two nations withdrew their respective ambassadors last month in the row over Thaksin’s appointment and visit to Cambodia, and Thani said any attempt to normalise relations would have to be initiated by Cambodia.

“From our perspective, the issue was the result of actions on the part of the Cambodian side, and so we hope that steps will be taken to rectify the situation,” he said.

Thailand, Thani added, will not submit to negotiations with Cambodia while Thaksin, who was deposed in a 2006 coup and self-exiled to avoid a jail term for corruption, remains as an official adviser to the Cambodian government.

On Friday, the Cambodian government announced that it had annulled a US$41 million loan from Thailand that was to have funded renovations of National Road 68, connecting Siem Reap and Oddar Meanchey provinces with Thailand. Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman Koy Kuong said Friday that Cambodia is capable of funding this project on its own.

Hun Sen said he had spoken with Abhisit on Friday about the road project, and that the Thai PM asked him to reconsider the annulment and told him Thailand would send a diplomatic note confirming the project’s ongoing status. Because Abhisit was travelling in Thailand, however, the note did not arrive over the weekend, and by Monday, Hun Sen said he had decided to stick with his original policy.

“Please, all government institutions, review bilateral agreements with Thailand ... so that we will not owe any favours to Abhisit and their government,” Hun Sen said, adding that he had instructed the Ministry of Education not to send abroad 20 Cambodian students who had earned scholarships to study in Thailand because he planned to pay for their education in Cambodia instead.

Bail hearing set for ‘spy’
Kao Soupha, lawyer for Sivarak Chutipong, said a bail hearing had been set for his client at Phnom Penh Municipal Court on December 4.

Sivarak, a Thai national, was arrested on November 12 after passing Thaksin’s flight schedule to the Thai embassy during his visit to the Kingdom. Sivarak’s trial is scheduled for December 8.

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