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Monday, November 09, 2009

Thais ready Thaksin extradition papers for Cambodia

BANGKOK - Thailand has prepared extradition papers for Thaksin Shinawatra ahead of the fugitive former premier's diplomatically tense visit to neighbouring Cambodia this week, a government prosecutor said Monday.

Thaksin, who was ousted in a coup in 2006 and now lives abroad to avoid a jail term for graft, sparked a furious row between Bangkok and Phnom Penh last week by accepting a position as economic adviser to Cambodia's government.

The billionaire telecommunications tycoon is due to make a speech to Cambodian economics experts at the country's finance ministry on Thursday, sparking calls from Thailand for Cambodia to extradite him.

"We have extradition papers ready but our documents must be approved by the attorney general after we receive a request by the foreign ministry or police," Sirasak Tiypan of the Thai attorney general's office told AFP.

"The papers are the same we have sent to Fiji, Nicaragua and the United Arab Emirates."

Thaksin was sentenced to two years jail in absentia in 2008 for abuse of power, a judgment that both he and his close friend, Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen, have described as politically motivated.

The Thai government said last week that it would seek Thaksin's extradition as soon as he set foot in Cambodia. But Cambodia has said it will reject any request to extradite Thaksin.

Thailand says a refusal would violate international agreements and lead to further diplomatic measures.

The feud over Thaksin had already prompted Thailand and Cambodia to recall their ambassadors from each other's capitals last Thursday. The Thai government also threatened to close their shared border.

The two countries have fought a series of deadly skirmishes over disputed land around a Cambodian 11th century temple on the frontier since it was granted UN World Heritage status in July 2008.

The timing of the row could cause embarrassment for Thailand as it prepares to chair a meeting in Singapore between US President Barack Obama and Southeast Asian leaders on Sunday.

Twice-elected Thaksin remains a huge threat to Thailand's government, coordinating mass protests from afar since it took power in December 2008.

Meanwhile, in an interview with British daily The Times published on Monday, Thaksin urged the reform of institutions around Thailand's revered monarchy.

He said that 81-year-old King Bhumibol Adulyadej, the world's longest reigning monarch, was above politics but that "circles" around the palace were interfering with the running of the country.

"That's the problem in Thailand. The monarchy is not the problem. The monarchy is good for Thailand. Thailand needs to have a monarchy but it should not be abused or played by the palace circles," he was quoted as saying.

Asked if the "royal institution" needed reform, he said: "Yes, yes."

"I can assure you His Majesty is above (politics), but those in the circle have a network," he said.

"They want to get rid of me because they say I am trying to turn Thailand into a republic and topple the monarchy. That's not true. I have a very high respect for the monarchy and royal family."

Thaksin's supporters have targeted the house of the king's main adviser, former general Prem Tinsulanonda, during several protests this year and accused Prem of orchestrating the coup.

Thaksin's comments remain sensitive in a country where insulting or defaming the royal family is punishable by up to 15 years in jail.

Three people were arrested recently for spreading rumours about the health of the king, who has been in hospital for nearly two months with a lung infection and fever.

- AFP/ir

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