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Friday, February 05, 2010

Cambodia denies Thai ex-PM Thaksin made citizen

Cambodia on Friday denied a report that Thailand's disgraced former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra has been granted citizenship, an allegation that had drawn threats in Bangkok that the billionaire ex-politician could lose his native Thai nationality.

Cambodian government spokesman Khieu Kanharith said the allegation, which surfaced earlier this week on "Khmer Intelligence News," a Cambodian anti-government Web site, was untrue.

"Cambodia never granted Cambodian citizenship to Thaksin," Khieu Kanharith told The Associated Press. "Even if Cambodia would give him citizenship, I think that Thaksin would not accept it."

Cambodia late last year named Thaksin, a fugitive from justice in Thailand, as its special economic adviser. The appointment and Thaksin's subsequent visit to Cambodia angered the government in Bangkok and resulted in a recall of ambassadors from both countries.

Thaksin has lived in self-imposed exile since 2006 military coup ousted him. He was convicted in absentia in 2008 of violating a conflict of interest law and sentenced to two years in prison, and his Thai passport has been revoked, forcing him to travel on other countries' passports.

His representatives could not be reached for comment Friday.

Thai officials frequently claim he is trying to undermine the government.

"I don't know about this report yet, but according to Thai laws, we are allowed to have only one nationality," Thai Prime Minister Abhisit told reporters Friday. "If he wants to use Cambodian nationality, he must give up Thai nationality first."

Cambodian-Thai relations are also strained over competing claims to some territory along their border near the hilltop temple known as Preah Vihear. Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen is to visit the area Saturday. Troops from the two nations had at least two brief clashes there last month.

Cambodia on Friday sent a letter of protest to Google, complaining that maps on its Google Earth service inaccurately place the border line near the disputed territory to favor Thailand's claims.

It called on the company to withdraw the "already disseminated, very wrong and not internationally recognized" map.

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Cambodia lambasts Google for locating temple on Thai soil

The Cambodian government sent a strongly-worded letter Friday to US internet giant Google, complaining that its online Google Earth map incorrectly places parts of the 11th century Preah Vihear temple in Thailand.

The letter comes ahead of an expected visit this weekend by Cambodia's Prime Minister Hun Sen to the temple, which is situated on land claimed by both Cambodia and neighbouring Thailand.

Government spokesman Phay Siphan told DPA he had sent an initial letter to Google three years ago asking it to remedy the problem, but had received no response.

Friday's letter called on Google to withdraw the map, calling its demarcation of the border 'radically misleading and totally misguided' for showing 'almost half of the temple in Thailand'.

The International Court of Justice awarded Preah Vihear temple to Cambodia in 1962, but did not rule on nearby land that is claimed by both nations.

Google's map, which shows the yellow border line running through the contested temple, 'is devoid of truth and reality and professionally irresponsible, if not pretentious', the letter stated.

Over the past 18 months Thai nationalists have used the Preah Vihear issue to stoke tensions, to which the visit by Hun Sen may add.

Phay Siphan said he had no official confirmation that Hun Sen would visit Preah Vihear temple at the weekend, but said people expected him to be there.

'Everyone is talking about it and expects to see (Hun Sen) on the top (of the temple) to pay his respects to Cambodian culture,' Phay Siphan said late Friday.

He added that the area was 'very stable, and there are no irregularities. Soldiers are chitchatting with each other'.

The relationship between Cambodia and Thailand has been tense for more than a year with sporadic clashes between troops in the area around the temple. Much of the border between the two countries has yet to be demarcated.

Diplomatic relations plunged to a new low in October after Phnom Penh appointed Thailand's fugitive ex-premier Thaksin Shinawatra as a government adviser.
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PM chairs security meeting as Cambodian premier plans border visit

BANGKOK, Feb 5 (TNA) - Prime Minisiter Abhisit Vejjajiva on Thursday chaired a meeting of Thailand’s National Security Council (NSC) to discuss various security issues including Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen's plan to visit the border area near the Prah Viharn or Preah Vihear, the disputed ancient Khmer temple this weekend.

The prime minister told reporters after the one-hour meeting that the NSC had discussed general issues related to security matters and nothing was of particular concern.

As for the Cambodian premier's plan to visit border area near Prah Viharn Temple, Mr Abhisit said the panel believed that the local security personnel could take care of the situation, no special instructions have been issued.

However, if Mr Hun Sen wishes to travel into the 4.6 sq km border area claimed by both countries, Mr Abhisit said, talks must be held prior to the visit.

Regarding the anti-government United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship (UDD) plan to rally, Mr Abhisit said the government would strictly observe the legal procedures and would do its utmost to maintain law and order.

Deputy Prime Minister Suthep Thaugsuban said earlier that the NSC meeting at Don Mueang Airport was not a special session, but that the prime minister had come back from official duty in the southern province.

Thailand’s defence, interior, foreign affairs, and finance ministers as well as Army, Navy, Air Force and police chiefs attended the meeting.

Mr Suthep said that the meeting would touch on the Cambodian prime minister's plan to visit the border province February 6-7.

He affirmed that the government would try its best to protect the people and the kingdom’s national interest. (TNA)

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2nd Army: Border is secure

There is no need to reinforce the Thai troops around the disputed border area ahead of Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen's visit this weekend, 2nd Army commander Lt Gen Weewalit Chornsamrit said on Friday.

Lt-Gen Weewalit said the exisiting forces were sufficient to maintain peace.

He had been contacted by senior Cambodian military officials and they discussed security measures along the border, especially the area where Hun Sen will visit, which adjoins Si Sa Ket province.

Lt-Gen Weewalit said he did not believe Hun Sen's visit to the border was a declaration of Cambodia's ownership of the disputed area.

Cambodian officials told him the main objective for Hun Sen's visit was to declare open a natural village, Sinharaj Decho, and a new military unit, and to lift the morale of Cambodian troops along the border.

Lt-Gen Weewalit had been assigned by the government to welcome Hun Sen.

He said the 2nd Army would not allow armed Cambodian troops in the disputed area under Thai control. They would have to disarm before entering.

This issue would be addressed at a meeting with senior Cambodian officers this afternoon.

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