More verbal attacks from Hun Sen to Thailand

“]Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen has reportedly said the days are numbered for the government his Thai counterpart. [Radio Australia]

Cambodia’s Prime Minister Hun Sen has launched a scathing verbal attack on the Thai government, saying the current administration’s days are numbered.

He has told an audience at a student graduation ceremony in Phnom Penh that Thailand’s current government, led by Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva would not survive much longer.

He’s also labelled Thailand’s Foreign Minister the “chief of terrorists” for orchestrating the collapse of the previous government, and says he’s waiting for a new administration to take power before restoring diplomatic relations.

His comments follow a series diplomatic incidents over the past 15 months, that include deadly border clashes centering on an ancient Buddhist temple, and Cambodia’s appointment of former Thai prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra as a government adviser.

Thaksin was thrown from office in a 2006 coup and is a wanted fugitive in his homeland.

Though both countries have acknowledged that ties are at an all-time low, Thailand is refusing to weigh in on the latest outburst from Phnom Penh.

Thai Government spokesman Panitan Wattanayagorn told Radio Australia that Bangkok is firmly focused on improving relations with its neighbour.

“I assume he was talking to Cambodian students. So we’re not going to comment on what he said to his students,” he said.

He says Cambodia’s recent pardon and release of a Thai man accused of stealing security information is a positive step in the countries’ relations.

Domestic benefits

Professor Carl Thayer, a Southeast Asia analyst at the University of New South Wales, says present developments are playing well into the hands of Hun Sen on the domestic front.

“Thai relations with Cambodia have been a political football inside Cambodia, and Hun Sen has been playing the issue for several years now to maximum effect,” he said.

“I think we’re just seeing this that he used that in the elections in 2008 to make a major victory because of the Preah Vihear temple incident. And with relations at an all-time low, he just gained some popularity at home. At the same time, he has his own opposition on the run. So he’s reigning supreme and enjoying the political game.”

Part of that political game could be Thaksin’s appointment, which has infuriated the Thai government and prompted a recall of ambassadors from both countries.

Cambodia has refused Thailand’s requests to extradite Thaksin, saying the charges against the former prime minister are politically motivated.

“Yes, Cambodia always supports the appointment of Mr. Thaksin as an economic adviser to the government of Cambodia. And the appointment, it is the sovereign right of the Cambodian government to appoint his Excellency Mr. Thaksin,” said Cambodian Government spokesman Koy Kuorn.

That statement doesn’t bode well for future diplomatic relations.

Thai Government spokesman Panitan Wattanayagorn says if that’s the case, “then certain negotiations may not be able to move forward because any country in this position would do the same thing when there is a possibility of being put in a disadvantaged position.”

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