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Sunday, November 08, 2009

Thaksin to visit Cambodia this week: PM

PHNOM PENH - Ousted Thai premier Thaksin Shinawatra will visit Cambodia this week in his new role as the government's economics adviser, the Cambodian Prime Minister told reporters Sunday.

"Thaksin will be at the Ministry of Economy and Finance on November 12, to do a briefing with more than 300 Cambodian economics experts," Hun Sen told a news conference at Phnom Penh International Airport.

The visit is likely to increase tensions between Cambodia and Thailand, which have escalated since Wednesday when Cambodia announced the appointment of Thaksin, who was ousted as Thai prime minister in a 2006 coup.

Both countries Thursday recalled their respective ambassadors and Thailand warned Friday that it could seal the border.

"If you want to close, close it. The loss will be mutual," said Hun Sen Sunday, pointing out that Thailand had more to lose in terms of border trade profit.

"If Thais want to close the border, Cambodia will follow. If Thais close the border, all trade between Cambodia and Thailand will be cut off," Hun Sen told reporters.

Thaksin is living abroad to avoid a two-year jail term for corruption, but Cambodia said last week the charges against him were "politically motivated" and vowed not to extradite him if he travelled to the country.

"Please let Thaksin share my burden of boosting the economy of Cambodia," Hun Sen appealed to the Thai people Sunday.

But the premier also used the press conference to downplay tensions at the border, announce the withdrawal of elite paratroopers from disputed territory near Preah Vihear temple.

The two countries have fought a series of deadly clashes on their border since July 2008 in the dispute over land around the ancient Cambodian temple that was granted UN World Heritage Status.

"After examining the situation at the border between Cambodia and Thailand, the situation was quiet," Hun Sen said.

"So I announce the withdrawal of special paratroop number 911 from the area at Preah Vihear temple, and their return to the headquarters. The implementation will be finished within a week."

Commander Chab Pheakdey, head of the unit, refused to divulge the number of soldiers that would be withdrawn from the area.

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