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Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Thailand delays action on aid to Cambodia

By Pracha Hariraksapitak


BANGKOK, Nov 17 (Reuters) - Thailand on Tuesday held back on further action against Cambodia -- which caused a diplomatic row by offering a job to fugitive ex-premier Thaksin Shinawatra -- and welcomed the access it was given to a Thai accused of spying.

"There is still plenty of time to consider (cutting aid and loans). There is no need to hurry," Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva told reporters after a weekly cabinet meeting.

The latest row between the neigbouring countries flared when Thaksin went to Cambodia last week after its prime minister, Hun Sen, offered him a job as an economic adviser. The Cambodian government rejected Bangkok's request to extradite him.

The two countries recalled their ambassadors and Cambodia arrested a Thai engineer working for Cambodia Air Traffic Services, accusing him of sending Thaksin's flight schedule to a Thai diplomat, who was expelled by Phnom Penh.

The arrest caused further uproar in Thailand, especially as embassy officials were initially denied access to the engineer.

A visit was finally allowed on Tuesday.

"It is a positive move on Cambodia's part to allow our representative to visit him," Abhisit said. "This gives us hope. We will continue to seek legal counsel for now and we believe we will be informed of formal charges soon."

The Thai government says the information the engineer was accused of giving the diplomat was publicly available.

AID MAY BE HIT

Earlier, Panitan Wattanayagorn, deputy secretary-general to Abhisit, said the cabinet could discuss various measures to be taken against Cambodia, including freezing low-interest loans to build roads.

Last week Thailand said it would scrap a 2001 memorandum of understanding on energy development in the Gulf of Thailand.

The agreement was signed under Thaksin's administration, with the aim of finding a way for the two countries to jointly develop oil and gas resources in disputed waters, although little progress has been made.

Thaksin left Cambodia on Saturday.

He spends most of his time in Dubai, having returned to self-imposed exile last year ahead of a court judgment that found him guilty of violating a conflict of interest law while in office and sentenced him to two years in jail.

After winning two landslide elections, Thaksin was ousted in a military coup in 2006. He remains at the heart of a bitter political struggle in Thailand which has at various stages over the past four years scared off tourists and dismayed investors. (For an analysis on Thaksin's strategy, click [ID:nBKK461030]) (Writing by Ambika Ahuja; Editing by Alan Raybould and Jerry Norton)

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