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Monday, October 26, 2009

Suthep sets out case for ending spat

Deputy Prime Minister Suthep Thaugsuban has used his personal connections with Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen to defuse a potential diplomatic spat between the two countries.

Mr Suthep yesterday said he met the Cambodian leader for two hours on Saturday after a gala dinner hosted by Thailand for leaders attending the Asean summit.

The meeting was made necessary by Hun Sen's reiteration soon after arriving in Thailand last Friday, that former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra was welcome to stay in Cambodia without fear of repatriation.

Mr Suthep's mission was to make the Cambodian leader understand the real situation in Thailand, particularly concerning the legal cases against Thaksin.

He explained that Thaksin was unlikely to return to Thailand any time soon and that the Democrat-led government was not "a temporary" administration.

Mr Suthep also clarified that Bangkok had allowed Sam Rainsy entry to Thailand in his capacity as leader of the Cambodian opposition. He said this should not be compared with Thaksin's position as Mr Rainsy was not a political fugitive wanted by Phnom Penh.

Hun Sen criticised Thailand on Friday for allowing his political rival to use the Kingdom to attack his government.

Mr Suthep earlier offered Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva his services in helping mend ties with Cambodia after Phnom Penh was angered by Thailand's protest against the listing of the Preah Vihear temple as a World Heritage Site under the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation.

He visited Hun Sen before the Democrats came to power and twice since.

Mr Suthep was appointed chairman of the Joint Technical Committee, a position normally headed by the foreign minister, based on his close ties with the Cambodian leader.

The Joint Technical Committee has the role of demarcating the overlapping maritime boundary in the Gulf of Thailand and jointly developing areas where the issue of sovereignty cannot be settled.

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