End is near for Abhisit govt: PM
PRIME Minister Hun Sen said Tuesday that the embattled government of Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva does “not have long to live”, renewing his rhetorical attacks on the neighbouring administration.
Speaking at a graduation ceremony at the National Institute of Education, Hun Sen rejected the possibility of normalising the Kingdom’s frayed diplomatic relations with Thailand. He again said that Thai troops had been occupying Cambodian land near Preah Vihear temple, accusing Thai officials of “scorn that cannot be forgiven”.
“From now on, stop talking about sending your ambassador back – Cambodia doesn’t need him,” Hun Sen said before an audience of 3,000 students. “Cambodia will not die without the presence of the Thai ambassador.”
Cambodia and Thailand withdrew their respective ambassadors in November in the row over fugitive former Thai prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra’s appointment as a Cambodian government economics adviser. Supporters of Thaksin known as the Red Shirts are planning rallies in Thailand this month as part of a sustained effort to bring down the Abhisit government.
Although Hun Sen announced an alliance between his Cambodian People’s Party and Thailand’s pro-Thaksin Puea Thai party in October, Council of Ministers spokesman Phay Siphan said Cambodia is not necessarily supporting one side or the other in Thailand’s intensely polarised domestic politics.
“It’s the Thai people’s decision, but we tell them that we have a hard time working with the Abhisit administration so far,” Phay Siphan said, adding: “We wish to see the Thai people united.”
In 2008, anti-Thaksin protesters rallied in the streets of Bangkok and occupied two of Thailand’s main airports, ultimately forcing the dissolution of a Thaksin-aligned government. Thaksin fled Thailand in 2008 to avoid a jail term for corruption after being deposed in a 2006 coup.
Current Thai Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya took part in the airport protests, for which Hun Sen criticised him Tuesday.
“You are a terrorist who occupied the airports of Don Mueang and Suvarnabhumi,” Hun Sen said in addressing Kasit. “I say this because Cambodian travellers became hostages at those airports.”
Thai government spokesman Panitan Wattanyagorn said Thai officials “are not going to comment on Prime Minister Hun Sen’s speech for his domestic audience”.
“We hope that our relationship improves,” he added.
As the premier sounded off in Phnom Penh, border officials reported troop movements along the contentious Thai-Cambodian border, which has yet to be fully demarcated.
Chhim Sivuth, secretary general of Oddar Meanchey province, said around 30 Thai soldiers moved their base within a contested area by about 3 kilometres on Monday, with Cambodian troops dispatched to meet with them to prevent “further encroachment”.
“We have sent our troops to that place for negotiation about [the Thai troops’] relocation to another place,” Chhim Sivuth said. “We cannot say they were settled on our land because we have not yet demarcated that area, but we see that the area on which they settled is mainly populated by the Cambodian side.”
Panitan was unaware of the movements, but said such events were of little significance in any case.
“It’s very normal in a disputed area over many centuries … that different troop movements are somewhat contested, so I think if this happens, it’s normal activity,” he said.
Sivarak to return
As an example of a positive sign for Thai-Cambodian relations, Panitan cited the impending return to Cambodia of Sivarak Chutipong, reported on Tuesday by the Bangkok Post.
Sivarak received a Royal pardon last month after being found guilty of leaking Thaksin’s flight schedule to the Thai embassy in November.
“Although we may have different opinions on the case, the fact that [Sivarak] has returned is a very positive development,” Panitan said.