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Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Fugitive Ex-Thai Premier Thaksin Arrives in Cambodia as Adviser

By Bill Austin and Daniel Ten Kate

Nov. 10 (Bloomberg) -- Fugitive former Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra arrived in neighboring Cambodia on a visit that threatens to fuel a row between the two and cloud weekend talks between regional leaders and President Barack Obama.

Thaksin, who was ousted in a 2006 coup, is visiting Phnom Penh in his capacity as Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen’s economic adviser. That appointment, made last week, prompted Thailand to downgrade diplomatic relations and review business deals with its Southeast Asian neighbor.

There is “no limit” to how many days Thaksin can stay in Cambodia, Keo Phalla, an assistant to government spokesman Phay Siphan, said by phone from Phnom Penh.

This weekend’s meeting in Singapore will be the first between a U.S. president and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations. Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva is set to co- chair the gathering with Obama, with Hun Sen also in attendance.

“We are as nationalistic as anyone but we also love our neighbor as much as we love ourselves,” Chavalit Yongchaiyudh, 77, the leader of Thailand’s Thaksin-linked opposition Puea Thai party, told reporters in Bangkok today. “Therefore we want to create a new atmosphere.”

Chavalit, a former army chief and prime minister, made an Oct. 21 visit to Cambodia, shortly before Hun Sen offered Thaksin refuge in the country. Thaksin was treated unfairly after the coup, Chavalit said.

Thaksin plans to give a speech to about 300 Cambodian businessmen today, China’s Xinhua News Agency said, without citing anyone. Abhisit’s government has said it will seek his extradition.

Disputed Waters

Thailand said last week it would end a 2001 agreement with Cambodia that sought to reconcile 10,422 square miles of disputed waters. Cambodia imported more goods from its neighbor last year than any other country. Bilateral trade reached $2.13 billion, with Thai exports such as sugar, cement and oil accounting for 96 percent of the total, according to Thailand’s Commerce Ministry.

Thaksin fled a two-year prison sentence for abuse of power last year and now lives in Dubai. Cambodia has rejected extradition proceedings because it considers the charges against him to be politically motivated.

Thaksin has orchestrated anti-government protests from abroad since he left Thailand.
To contact the reporter on this story: Daniel Ten Kate in Bangkok at .

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