PHNOM PENH:Ousted Thai premier Thaksin Shinawatra arrived in Cambodia to start work as a government economic adviser today, fuelling tensions between the two countries after a series of border clashes.
Thailand vowed to seek the extradition of the fugitive billionaire — who was ousted in a bloodless coup in 2006 and is living abroad to avoid corruption charges — but Cambodia said it would refuse any request.
The row has plunged relations between the neighbouring nations to their lowest for years and threatens to cloud weekend talks between Southeast Asian leaders and US President Barack Obama. Thaksin landed in a private jet at Phnom Penh International Airport and was escorted into the capital by a convoy of cars under tight security early this morning.
“Thaksin is here for the economy and no activities related to politics. It is an honour for Cambodia’s economic sector and we hope that Cambodians nationwide welcome him warmly,” said Cambodian cabinet spokesman Phay Siphan. Thaksin is due to address 300 Cambodian economics experts in Phnom Penh on Thursday in his first engagement in his new post. Siphan said Thaksin and Cambodian PM Hun Sen — who are close friends and occasional golf partners — shared a welcoming lunch, and then Thaksin was expected to stay for “two or three days”.
Thaksin confirmed on his official Twitter account that he had arrived in Phnom Penh, adding that he was “really homesick”.
“Tonight I will dine with PM Hun Sen and his family. I want to reiterate that nation, religion and monarchy are always in my mind,” Thaksin wrote. Thailand and Cambodia recalled their respective ambassadors last week in the escalating row over Thaksin, a telecommunications tycoon and the former owner of Manchester City Football Club. He won two elections and remains a massively influential figure in Thai politics, stirring up mass protests by so-called “Red Shirt” supporters against the government.