Improvement in Thailand-Cambodia relations blows cool breeze to ASEAN

“Cambodia will not allow former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra to use Cambodia as a political base to attack Thailand,” Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen declared during a meeting with Deputy Prime Minister of Thailand Suthep Thaugsuban on April 4 in Hua Hin, Thailand.

From left to right: Cabodian PM Hun Sen, Lao PM Buasone Bouphavanh , Thailand PM Abhisit Vejjajiva and Vietnamese PM Nguyen Tan Dung in the Hua Hin conference on Mekong River on April 5, 2010.

PM Hun Sen said during the Mekong River Commission (MRC) Summit, held for the first time in Hua Hin, that the Cambodian constitution prohibits such political activity. He added that Mr. Thaksin would not be allowed to enter Cambodia in the midst of Thailand’s political unrest.  

Since a dispute over ownership of the historic Preah Vihear temple broke out in 2008, relations between Cambodia and Thailand have been strained.

Cambodia’s recent comments on the contentious issue of Mr. Thaksin, however, have led the public to believe that icy relations between the two Southeast Asian neighbors may be beginning to thaw.

Responding to the statement of his Cambodian counterpart, Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva considered Mr. Hun Sen’s comments a positive signal towards the normalization of relations between Thailand and Cambodia.

PM Abhisit made the statement at a press conference April 5 after the closing of the MRC Summit.
 
“The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Thailand will consider re-deploying the ambassadorial ranks in Cambodia step-by-step,” said Prime Minister Abhisit.

Cambodia-Thailand relations soured gradually when Prime Minister Hun Sen appointed Mr. Thaksin as an economic advisor in October 2009 and rejected a request to extradite him to the Thai government.  

The already-strained relations between the two countries were exacerbated by Cambodia’s appointment of Mr. Thaksin as an economic advisor and Thailand responded by re-calling the Thai Ambassador to Cambodia.

Cambodia retaliated likewise and refused aid from Thailand for a project to revamp the road linking Poipet to Siem Reap.

Most recently, just hours before Prime Minister Hun Sen traveled to Hua Hin to attend the MRC Summit, a group from the People's Alliance for Democracy (PAD) staged a protest at the conference opposing Mr. Hun Sen.

The surprising statement by Mr. Hun Sen is being hailed by many as a breath of fresh air, dispelling Cambodia’s tense political relationship with Thailand.

Regarding the appointment of Mr. Thaksin as Cambodia’s economic adviser, PM Hun Sen asserted once again that Cambodia needs a consultant for economic development, but that the country clearly distinguishes personal relationships from national interest and will not let the "Thaksin issue" affect relations between Cambodia and Thailand.

In three day's time, the 16th ASEAN Summit will take place in Hanoi. The renewed positive Thai-Cambodian relations are seen as a good sign ahead of the major ASEAN event.

By Anh Van-Translated by Hong Tran

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