Thursday, November 5, 2009

Thailand Recalls Its Envoy to Cambodia as Rift Grows

BANGKOK -- Thailand recalled its ambassador from neighboring Cambodia on Thursday after former Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra was named an adviser to the government in Phnom Penh.

Cambodia then called home its its ambassador in Thailand.

Bangkok's move was the harshest diplomatic action thus far in continuing tensions between the two countries, which have had a series of small -- but sometimes deadly -- skirmishes over demarcation of their border.

Associated Press

In this photo taken on Aug. 10, 2006, Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen, right, talks with former Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra in Phnom Penh, Cambodia.

Thailand also said it would review all of its agreements with Cambodia.

Mr. Thaksin is a hugely divisive figure in Thailand, where his supporters and opponents have repeatedly taken to the streets over the past two years in demonstrations over who has the right to rule the country since his ouster in a 2006 military coup.

Mr. Thaksin has been living mostly in self-imposed exile since the coup, when he was accused of corruption, abuse of power and insulting Thailand's constitutional monarch. He was convicted in absentia last year of violating a conflict of interest law and sentenced to two years in prison, and his Thai passport has been revoked, forcing him to travel on other countries' passports.

A Thai Foreign Ministry statement said Thursday that the Thai ambassador was being recalled in response to the announcement of the appointment a day earlier by Prime Minister Hun Sen's government.

Cambodian state television said Wednesday night that Mr. Thaksin would serve as an adviser on economic affairs to both the government and to the prime minister personally. It also said Cambodia would refuse to extradite Mr. Thaksin to Thailand if asked because Phnom Penh considers him a victim of political persecution, echoing comments Cambodia's prime minister made last month. Mr. Thaksin had substantial business interests in Cambodia.

Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva said Thursday that the Cambodian action was considered interference in Thailand's internal affairs.

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