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Sunday, November 15, 2009

Thaksin opponents to rally in Thailand over Cambodia trip

BANGKOK: Thousands of members of Thailand's royalist "Yellow Shirt" protest movement are set to rally in Bangkok on Sunday against a visit by fugitive former premier Thaksin Shinawatra to neighbouring Cambodia.

The demonstrators said they were also gathering to express outrage at comments that billionaire Thaksin, who was ousted by the army in 2006, made in a newspaper interview about Thailand's widely revered king.

The yellow-clad People's Alliance for Democracy (PAD) blockaded Bangkok's airports almost one year ago to force Thaksin's allies out of government, and also staged mass protests against him in the months before the coup.

Senior PAD leader Somsak Kosaisuk said the latest protest was about Cambodia's appointment of Thaksin as an economic adviser and Phnom Penh's refusal to extradite him when he visited the country this week.

"Our duty is to protect and preserve the country's honour and dignity and the monarchy. Cambodia violated the extradition treaty and allowed a convicted person to be its advisor," Somsak told AFP.

"This action harms our country's prestige. We will denounce both convicted Thaksin and (Cambodian Prime Minister) Hun Sen at the protest," he said.

Police estimated that 10,000 to 15,000 people would join the rally, which starts at 4:00 pm (0900 GMT) at the Sanam Luang parade ground in downtown Bangkok.

Deputy national police spokesman Piya Utayo said around 1,500 police officers would be deployed in the capital for the rally.

The strongly nationalist Yellow Shirts are also up in arms over comments made by Thaksin to British newspaper The Times, in which he called for reform of institutions around the monarchy.
The issue is sensitive because the widely revered King Bhumibol Adulyadej, 81 - a major force for stability in the politically divided nation - has been in hospital for the past two months.

Thaksin's four-day visit to Cambodia has caused a diplomatic crisis between Bangkok and Phnom Penh, with relations already tense after a series of deadly clashes in the past year over a disputed temple on their border.

Thaksin left Cambodia on Saturday.
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Thai PM: Diplomat standoff could end if Cambodia reviews its role

BANGKOK, Urging patriotic Thais to unite amid growing tensions with neighbouring Cambodia, Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva said Sunday that the ongoing problem between the two countries could end if the Cambodian government strictly follows international practice.

Mr. Abhisit, now attending the three-day 17th Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) meetings in Singapore ending later Sunday, said in his weekly address aired on television and radio that relations between the two countries were good until Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen appointed fugitive, ousted former Thai prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra as economic advisor to the Cambodian administration earlier this month.

Diplomatic ties between Cambodia and Thailand worsened after both countries recalled their ambassadors, expelled one another’s first secretaries and the Cambodian government arrested a Thai man it accused of spying on Mr Thaksin’s flight schedule, but Thailand has said that the accusation was groundless against the Thai citizen. The Thai government cancelled a memorandum of understanding with Cambodia on maritime agreement which included shared access to undersea mineral resources.

Mr. Abhisit said his government had a clear understanding that the diplomatic discord should not affect the livelihood and trade conducted between peoples of the two countries on the border and that the problem would have to be resolved by the two governments.

The Thai prime minister, currently chairman of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), reaffirmed that the dispute would not affect cooperation among members of ASEAN and between the bloc and its dialogue partners.

“What we (Thailand) are doing follows norms and international practices and we want to urge Cambodia to do the same,” Mr. Abhisit emphasised.

“If the Cambodian government reviews its stance and does everything as it was before the ASEAN summit last month,” said the Thai premier, “I believe that with our cooperation and neighbourliness will run smoothly.”

The Thai premier also expressed regret that some groups of Thais ignited the problems.

“Now the most important thing is the solidarity of the Thai people, being patient (with others) and showing our sincerity that we want to be good neighbours by respecting rules,” said Mr Abhisit. (TNA) .
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