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Friday, November 06, 2009

PM Abhisit arrives in Tokyo for 1st Mekong-Japan Summit

BANGKOK, Nov 6 (TNA) - Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva arrived in Tokyo Friday morning to attend the first Mekong-Japan Summit in the Japanese capital and to hold bilateral talks with Japanese Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama.

Mr Abhisit declined to comment on his possible first encounter with Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen at the summit, saying that there was no schedule to meet the Cambodia leader and the gathering was focusing in the regional issue.

The Thai prime minister and leaders of Cambodia, the Lao PDR, Myanmar, Vietnam, were scheduled to attend the luncheon hosted by the Japan Business Federation (Nippon Keidanren) and it could be the first time that Mr Abhisit and Hun Sen meet after tensions were heightened following Cambodia’s appointment of convicted former Thai prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra as personal advisor to Cambodian Premier Hun Sen and advisor on economy to his government.

Thailand protested the move by withdrawing its ambassador from Phnom Penh, saying it considered the Mr Thaksin’s appointment as interference in its internal affairs, while Cambodia later recalled its own ambassador in a reciprocal action.

After the luncheon, the leaders the Mekong sub-region countries were to have an audience with Crown Prince Naruhito and then meet the Speaker of the Japanese House of Representatives, Takahiro Yokomichi, and Japan's upper house President Satsuki Eda respectively.

The Thai prime minister was scheduled to participate in the Mekong-Japan Summit at 5.30pm local time or 7.30pm Thai time.

Mr Abhisit said earlier that Thailand will focus on three important issues—infrastructure connectivity to boost economic development in the East-West and Southern economic corridors and pave the way for ASEAN economic integration, resolution of environmental problems (Japan has played a major role in resolving climate change), and human resources development.

The Thai premier said that the summit is expected to issue an investment plan for infrastructure and environmental rehabilitation, as well as human resources development.

In addition, Mr Abhisit said a declaration on joint political will was scheduled to be signed.

The Thai premier said that after the summit ends, he will meet bilaterally with the Japanese premier and with Foreign Minister Katsuya Okada.

He said the meeting will focus on economic cooperation, especially applying the Japan-Thailand Economic Partnership Agreement (JTEPA) and Creative Economics for Economic Value Added.

The Thai premier said Thailand has met with Japanese investors both in Thailand and abroad about implementing the economic partnership agreement and will resolve the continuing problem at Map Ta Phut Industrial Estate in accord with the law, worrying investors after Thailand's Central Administrative Court ordered 76 industrial projects there to temporarily halt operations amid continued concern by local residents and NGOs about critical environmental and health impacts.

Japan earlier reaffirmed its continued commitment to help narrow the development gaps in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) through various sub-regional development activities.

Japan initiated the Mekong-Japan Cooperation framework while designating the year 2009 as the Mekong-Japan Exchange Year.
The 1st Mekong-Japan Summit in Tokyo is expected to strengthen cooperative relations between Japan and the Mekong countries, including Thailand, Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and Vietnam. (TNA)

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Japan’s Hatoyama Pledges $5.5 Billion in Aid to Mekong Nations

By Sachiko Sakamaki


Nov. 6 (Bloomberg) -- Japan pledged at least 500 billion yen ($5.5 billion) in aid to five Southeast Asian nations that share the Mekong river over the next three years to spur economic development and fight climate change.

Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama said developing the Mekong region will accelerate economic integration among members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations. The Mekong region is “key” to promoting Hatoyama’s idea of an “East Asian Community” modeled on the European Union and that would eventually have a regional currency, according to a Japanese government official who briefed reporters.

The leaders of Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos and Myanmar welcomed Japan’s pledge at the first Japan-Mekong summit in Tokyo, the official said.
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Attendees included Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva and his Cambodian counterpart Hun Sen, whose countries have recalled their respective ambassadors after Cambodia named fugitive ex-Thai premier Thaksin Shinawatra an economic adviser.

Also present were Laotian Prime Minister Bouasone Bouphavanh, Myanmar Prime Minister Thein Sein and Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung.


Japan is now giving roughly 160-170 billion yen a year to the five countries, the official said.
President Barack Obama, on his first trip to Asia, is scheduled to co-chair with Abhisit a Nov. 15 summit of Southeast Asian leaders that will include Hun Sen.

To contact the reporters on this story: Sachiko Sakamaki in Tokyo at Ssakamaki1@bloomberg.net;
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Thailand to pull out of maritime talks with Cambodia in protest

Nov 06, 2009 (BBC Monitoring via COMTEX) -- Bangkok, Nov. 6 Kyodo - A dispute between Thailand and Cambodia escalated Friday with Bangkok's threat to end talks with Cambodia on their disputed maritime border in the wake of Phnom Penh's recent appointment of ousted Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra as an economic adviser.

Meanwhile, fellow ASEAN member Singapore issued a statement Friday saying it is "concerned about the deteriorating relationship between Thailand and Cambodia." "It is not good for ASEAN. We hope that both our friends will keep the larger interest of ASEAN in mind and find a way to resolve their differences quickly in a spirit of good neighbourliness," it said.

Thailand's threat to pull out of maritime talks with Cambodia comes a day after it recalled its ambassador from Phnom Penh to protest against Thaksin, a fugitive from justice, being made Cambodia's economic adviser, calling it an insult to the Thai judicial system.

Cambodia recalled its ambassador from Bangkok in return.

On Friday, Thai Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya said his ministry will seek abrogation of a memorandum of understanding on maritime boundary negotiations that the two countries signed in 2001 while Thaksin was still Thai premier.

He said Thailand's negotiating stance is known to Thaksin, so his new advisory position could leave Thailand at a disadvantage in the maritime talks with Cambodia, which have not made progress in the last eight years.

Thailand will instead explore other ways under international law of resolving the two countries' overlapping claims over about 26,000 square kilometres of the Gulf of Thailand, he said.

Kasit was speaking by telephone from Tokyo, where he is attending the Japan-Mekong summit meeting that is being participated in by both Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva and his Cambodian counterpart Hun Sen.

Thai Deputy Prime Minister Suthep Thaugsuban said Friday that if Cambodia continues to act badly towards Thailand, "then we must continue to downgrade relations and maybe seal off all border checkpoints." Koy Kuong, spokesman of Cambodia's Foreign Ministry, told Kyodo News that the appointment of Thaksin as an adviser is purely an internal affair of Cambodia and that revocation of 2001 MOU would slow down and further complicate the already slow and complicated negotiation process.

Regarding the threat to close the land border, the spokesman said such an action would benefit neither side and would actually be more costly to Thailand more than Cambodia.

He cited figures for two-way trade in 2008, which show exports from Cambodia to Thailand were worth only $14 million whereas imports from Thailand to Cambodia were worth $674 million.

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Thailand, Cambodia dispute not good for ASEAN: Singapore

SINGAPORE, Singapore's Ministry of Foreign Affairs said on Friday that the recent dispute between Thailand and Cambodia is not good for the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).

The ministry said in a statement that Singapore is concerned about the deteriorating relationship between Thailand and Cambodia.

"It is not good for ASEAN. We hope that both our friends will keep the larger interest of ASEAN in mind and find a way to resolve their differences quickly in a spirit of good neighborliness," the ministry said.

The Cambodian government on Thursday evening announced it recalled its ambassador to Thailand in a move to respond to the Thai government's earlier recall of its ambassador to Cambodia. The diplomatic retaliation occurred after ousted former Thai prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra was officially appointed as adviser to Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen and the Royal Government of Cambodia King Norodom Sihamoni. Read more!

Thailand-Cambodia Tensions Rise Over Appointment of Fugitive Thai Official

By Daniel Schearf
Bangkok


Tensions between Southeast Asian neighbors Thailand and Cambodia are high after Cambodia's leader appointed a fugitive former Thai prime minister as an advisor. Both countries have withdrawn their ambassadors and claim interference in their internal affairs.

Regional political analysts say relations between Bangkok and Phnom Penh are the worst they have been in several years.

On Friday, Cambodia withdrew its ambassador to Thailand, in retaliation for Bangkok's withdrawal of its ambassador the day before. Thailand's action came after the Cambodian government of Prime Minister Hun Sen appointed fugitive Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra as an economic advisor.

The Thai Ministry of Foreign Affairs calls the appointment interference in its domestic affairs and a failure to respect its judicial system.

Thani Thonthongpakdi is a Foreign Ministry spokesman. He says Thai-Cambodia relations have been tested for over a year, and tensions are rising.

"We believe that we had to send a strong signal to Cambodia regarding their recent action. I think that the extant to which our bilateral relations will be affected, we will have to see what the reaction on the Cambodian side is," he said.

Thailand says it is now reviewing all its existing agreements and cooperation projects with Cambodia.

Thani says the government will most likely postpone or reduce projects if Mr. Thaksin's appointment goes ahead.

Koy Kuong, a spokesman for Cambodia's Foreign Ministry, says despite Thailand's objections, the government will go ahead with Mr. Thaksin's appointment. He says the Thai government is interfering in Cambodia's internal affairs by objecting to the appointment.

"The government of Cambodia has no intention to worsen the relationship between the two countries because of the appointment of Thaksin as an economic advisor to the government. So, it is the Thai side which views [it] in [a] different way," he said.

Koy Kuong says Cambodia views the charges against the former prime minister as politically motivated.

Mr. Thaksin was ousted in a 2006 military coup and fled Thailand last year to avoid a jail term for corruption.

The former leader is still popular in Thailand's countryside and among the poor because of his social welfare projects.

The argument adds to growing tensions over a disputed border area where sporadic fighting has broken out.

Puangtong Pawakapan is a professor of politics at Bangkok's Chulalongkorn University. She says Cambodia's appointment of Thaksin Shinawatra is pay-back against the Thailand's Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva for disputing the listing of a temple along the border as a world heritage site. The temple is in Cambodia, but Thailand controls land around it.

"I don't think Hun Sen invited Thaksin to be his advisor because he really needs Thaksin's advice no economic issues … I think it's [a] political issue and it's emotional retaliation of Hun Sen on the Abhisit government," said Pawakapan.

The Thailand's ambassador was last withdrawn in 2003 when rioters burned down the Thai embassy in Phnom Penh after a Thai actress questioned Cambodian sovereignty over the border temple.

Despite the withdrawal of ambassadors, both Thailand and Cambodia say normal business and travel relations will not be affected.
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