Thailand-Cambodia diplomatic row heats up

International movie and Martial Arts star Jackie Chan is in Phnom Penh this week to deliver a university lecture on peace. But his visit was upstaged by the arrival of former Thailand Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra who is now Cambodia’s economic adviser.

Thailand is protesting this appointment made by Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen. Thai officials are asking Cambodia to extradite Thaksin who is facing a two year jail term for corruption. Cambodia has refused the request arguing that Thaksin is a political, not criminal, convict. Also, Cambodian leader Hun Sen considers Thaksin as his “eternal friend.”

The reaction from the Thailand government was swift. Thailand Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva recalled the country’s ambassador to Cambodia. He is threatening to close the Cambodia-Thailand border which could disrupt and hurt economic activities in the region. The Thailand Cabinet also suspended the Thai-Cambodian memorandum of understanding on joint oil and gas exploration.

Thaksin was ousted in a 2006 coup. To escape serving a prison term for corruption, Thaksin has been living in many countries around the world. The billionaire politician believes he could not get a fair trial in Thailand. He is accusing the present government of being illegitimate and repressive.

Analyzing the decision of Hun Sen to appoint Thaksin, Details are Sketchy believes this could be part of a strategy to force a regime change in Thailand

The PM’s statement significantly turns up the heat on the Thai junta. It also strongly suggests that Thaksin’s current visit to Cambodia is not merely some political stunt designed to enrage the Thai establishment — although it is certainly that — but part of a larger strategy aimed at regime change in Thailand. It’s hard to underestimate the stakes in such a gamble. The danger of war, say some analysts, has never been greater.

The Thaksin appointment is the latest issue dividing Cambodia and Thailand. The two neighboring countries are both claiming ownership over the historic Preah Vihear Temple. The border dispute has resulted in a few cases of skirmishes between the country’s border patrol units. The border war is the root of the diplomatic row today

The offer (for Thaksin to serve as Cambodia’s adviser) will make the Thai junta seethe with madness. They have only themselves to blame. The junta prompted this whole mess when it sent Thai troops to the border at Preah Vihear. Prime Minister Hun Sen’s opportunistic stirring of the pot is just the natural law of unintended consequences at work.

Davan Long praises the “brilliant strategy” of Hun Sen to appoint Thaksin

Many Khmers, including myself, view the nomination as a brilliant strategy by your government in every aspect.

As anticipated, Thailand PM Abhisit’s government has staged a number of PR campaigns to falsely accuse your government of interfering or meddling with Thailand internal politics, while it is clearly the same government that exports Thailand internal conflicts to Cambodia in the first place.

The Wandering Cambodian wants the leaders of Cambodia and Thailand to be more mature

While I was kinda expecting this, I still find this very insane. I’m just sick and tired of this political drama. The two governments are worse than kindergarten kids, doing what they are doing. Let’s act more like grow-ups, please!

Cambodian Bright Future criticizes the appointment of Thaksin

Cambodian government is putting Cambodian people and her nation into a burning fire. Cambodia has deserved full potential to play role of international diplomacy with Thailand, but why Hun Sen chose “crashing strategy” in this time?

Why Hun Sen appointed Abhisit's rival as personal economic adviser?

…appointing Thaksin is like slapping incumbent PM Abhisit. The question is that it is good or bad to publicly slap Abhisit like a comedian without having proper plan to deal with the border issue? Or Hun Sen is expecting to get that land back during appointing Thaksin or what?

Thaksin has been tweeting his activities and sentiments during his stay in Cambodia. Meanwhile, here are Twitter reactions from Phomn Penh on Thaksin’s new role as economic adviser:

john_weeks: K press conference: Thaksin says he will invite Russian/Middle Eastern biz pals to invest in Cambodia. Hmm….
ratpoe: @nabejero my informal survey – my tuk tuk driver – confirms the people like thaksin.
vdao1972: Wow. Thaksin is practically my neighbor. Just a brisk two block walk and I am on his front gate!
john_weeks: Thaksin tours central PP, traffic jammed up around Independence Monument…
ChrisInCambo: I've really got into Thai politics in the last week, with Thaksin coming to visit having roused my interest. Interesting stuff.
ChrisInCambo:@ktiu I can't believe Hun Sen actually went ahead and made Thaksin an adviser. Very big gamble, will have to wait and see how it plays out.

The views of Thai bloggers will be featured in the second part of this post

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