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Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Cabinet endorses scrapping of MoU with Cambodia

By Piyanart Srivalo,
Samatcha Hoonsara
The Nation

The Cabinet yesterday endorsed Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva's decision to scrap a 2001 memorandum of understanding with Cambodia signed by then-premier Thaksin Shinawatra, in which the countries stated their intention to jointly develop an overlapping area in the Gulf of Thailand.

The House and the Senate are expected to endorse the move which, according to recent polls, has boosted Abhisit's approval rating.

Article 190 of the Constitution requires House and Senate approval for any agreements and treaties made with foreign governments.

However, senators and MPs appear to have backed away from an earlier threat of closing the border, which would hurt Thailand more than Cambodia in monetary terms.

Speaking to reporters prior to his departure for Phuket, Abhisit criticised Cambodia for exaggerating the effect of the cancellation of the memorandum of understanding (MoU) by trying to link it to other bilateral agreements that could detrimentally affect the sovereignty of the two countries.

The move applies to the 2001 MoU on overlapping claims and nothing else, he said. He argued that it had resulted in a conflict of interest because Thaksin - the architect of the MoU - was now economic adviser to the Cambodian government.

The move to scrap the MoU is largely seen as retaliation by the Abhisit administration against Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen's decision to appoint fugitive Thaksin as his economic adviser.

Thailand sees the move as a grave insult and interference in the country's internal affairs.

Government spokesman Panitan Wattanayagorn said the decision to push for the scrapping of the MoU was in the interest of the country and maintained "There was nothing personal or emotional about the move."

A Thai court last year handed Thaksin a two-year jail sentence on corruption charges.

The MoU covers a 27,000-square-kilometre oil- and gas-rich zone that is claimed by both Cambodia and Thailand. Although it was signed shortly after Thaksin came into power, the two countries have not been able to make much progress because they could not agree on a comprehensive deal.

Thailand exported US$1 billion (Bt33.3 billion) worth of goods to Cambodia in the first eight months of this year, while Cambodian exports to Thailand totalled $39 million.
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Fugitive Ex-Thai Premier Thaksin Arrives in Cambodia as Adviser

By Bill Austin and Daniel Ten Kate

Nov. 10 (Bloomberg) -- Fugitive former Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra arrived in neighboring Cambodia on a visit that threatens to fuel a row between the two and cloud weekend talks between regional leaders and President Barack Obama.

Thaksin, who was ousted in a 2006 coup, is visiting Phnom Penh in his capacity as Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen’s economic adviser. That appointment, made last week, prompted Thailand to downgrade diplomatic relations and review business deals with its Southeast Asian neighbor.

There is “no limit” to how many days Thaksin can stay in Cambodia, Keo Phalla, an assistant to government spokesman Phay Siphan, said by phone from Phnom Penh.

This weekend’s meeting in Singapore will be the first between a U.S. president and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations. Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva is set to co- chair the gathering with Obama, with Hun Sen also in attendance.

“We are as nationalistic as anyone but we also love our neighbor as much as we love ourselves,” Chavalit Yongchaiyudh, 77, the leader of Thailand’s Thaksin-linked opposition Puea Thai party, told reporters in Bangkok today. “Therefore we want to create a new atmosphere.”

Chavalit, a former army chief and prime minister, made an Oct. 21 visit to Cambodia, shortly before Hun Sen offered Thaksin refuge in the country. Thaksin was treated unfairly after the coup, Chavalit said.

Thaksin plans to give a speech to about 300 Cambodian businessmen today, China’s Xinhua News Agency said, without citing anyone. Abhisit’s government has said it will seek his extradition.

Disputed Waters

Thailand said last week it would end a 2001 agreement with Cambodia that sought to reconcile 10,422 square miles of disputed waters. Cambodia imported more goods from its neighbor last year than any other country. Bilateral trade reached $2.13 billion, with Thai exports such as sugar, cement and oil accounting for 96 percent of the total, according to Thailand’s Commerce Ministry.

Thaksin fled a two-year prison sentence for abuse of power last year and now lives in Dubai. Cambodia has rejected extradition proceedings because it considers the charges against him to be politically motivated.

Thaksin has orchestrated anti-government protests from abroad since he left Thailand.
To contact the reporter on this story: Daniel Ten Kate in Bangkok at .
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New crocodile hopes in Cambodia

By Guy deLauney
BBC News, Phnom Penh

Conservationists say there is fresh hope for one of the world's rarest reptiles.

DNA tests have found 35 pure-bred Siamese crocodiles at a wildlife sanctuary in Cambodia.

There are fewer then 250 of the species left in the wild, but the crocodiles at the sanctuary could now form the basis of a captive-breeding programme.

Siamese crocodiles may be smaller than some other species, but they're easily capable of breaking human limbs.

So for the conservationists at the Phnom Tamao wildlife rescue centre, taking DNA samples was a hazardous task.

In February this year, they wrangled and wrestled 69 of the beasts so they could gather genetic information.

And now it turns out all the hard work was worth it.

Thirty-five crocodiles have been confirmed as pure-bred Siamese - including six adults which may be suitable for starting off a captive breeding programme.

And more than two dozen younger crocs may be released into the wild when they are old enough.

The discovery continues a remarkable comeback for the species.

Siamese crocodiles were declared extinct in the 1990s - before a small population was discovered in Cambodia's Cardamom Mountains.

But the conservation organisation Fauna and Flora International has warned that any celebrations would be premature.

Siamese crocodiles mature slowly.

So it will take 15 years before the breeding programme comes to fruition.

And in the meantime, everything from poaching to hydroelectric projects pose a threat to crocodiles and their habitats.

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Toppled Thai leader arrives in Cambodia

By SOPHENG CHEANG, Associated Press Writer

The toppled leader was to deliver a lecture Thursday to more than 300 economists while in Phnom Penh.

Government spokesman Khieu Kanharith said Thaksin flew into the Cambodian capital's military airport aboard a private plane. State televison showed that Thaksin arrived with a party of less than 10 people and was driven into Phnom Penh under very tight security provided by bodyguards of Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen.

Thaksin's surprising appointment by Hun Sen has soured already poor relations between the two neighbors, which have had small but sometimes deadly skirmishes over their land border in the past year.

Thailand responded to the appointment by withdrawing its ambassador from Phnom Penh, and Cambodia retaliated in kind.

Thaksin was ousted in a 2006 military coup. He is living in exile, mostly in Dubai, to avoid a two-year prison sentence for corruption.

Despite his self-imposed exile he remains at the center of a political fight between his supporters and those of the current government. He ignited fresh controversy Monday by speaking candidly about the nation's constitutional monarchy.

Thaksin gave a rare extensive interview that was published by the Times of London on its Web site in which he spoke glowingly of the prospects for Crown Prince Vajiralongkorn once he succeeds his father, 81-year old King Bhumibol Adulyadej. But he criticized the king's close advisers for interfering with politics.

Open discussion of the succession issue is a delicate issue, in part because of strict laws that prohibit insulting the king and his family and make such criticism punishable by up to 15 years in prison.

Thaksin went into exile last year ahead of a court judgment that found him guilty of violating a conflict of interest law and sentenced him to two years in jail. He served as prime minister from 2001 to 2006, when he was ousted by a military coup after being accused of corruption and showing disrespect to the monarchy.

Thai Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya, who was an anti-Thaksin activist before joining the government, said to reporters that Thaksin's interview remarks were offensive to the monarchy, and questioned his motive for making them.

Other officials in the government of Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva also criticized Thaksin.

Thaksin's supporters and opponents have repeatedly taken to the streets since his ouster to spar over who has the right to rule the country, sometimes sparking violence.

On a Web page he maintains, Thaksin later said that The Times had distorted his comments, especially in its headline reading, "

In the Times interview, which included a transcript posted online, the former prime minister was laudatory about Vajiralongkorn, whom he described as "the newer generation, modern."

"He has a very strong determination to do what he really wants to achieve," said Thaksin.

He also offered repeated, almost fulsome praise of Bhumibol, but said the circle of people around him, particularly his main adviser, former Prime Minister Prem Tinsulanonda, had illegitimately interfered in politics.

Many people believe Prem engineered the coup against Thaksin, a charge Prem has denied.

The king has been in hospital for almost two months with a lung ailment.

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