SIEM REAP: Fugitive former Thai premier Thaksin Shinawatra left Cambodia on Saturday, officials said, concluding a trip that has stoked a major diplomatic crisis between the two neighbours.
Thaksin, who was toppled in a military coup in 2006 and is living abroad to avoid a jail term for corruption in Thailand, was seen by an AFP reporter departing the country Saturday morning by private jet.
Cambodia's deputy cabinet minister Prak Sokhon confirmed Thaksin had left, four days after arriving in the country to take up a role as economics adviser to the government.
Some 50 members of parliament from Thailand's main pro-Thaksin party, Puea Thai, who travelled to Cambodia to meet the billionaire tycoon, waved him off as his plane took off from the airport at the tourist hub of Siem Reap.
The Thai government was outraged by Thaksin's appointment and Cambodia's refusal to extradite him to Thailand on the grounds that his graft conviction was politically motivated.
Both countries recalled their respective ambassadors last week.
Cambodia upped the ante Thursday, expelling the first secretary to Thailand's embassy after the arrest of a Thai man in Phnom Penh on charges of spying on Thaksin.
Thailand reciprocated, expelling Cambodia's first secretary from Bangkok.
Cambodian premier Hun Sen has strongly defended his friendship with Thaksin and played a round of golf with him in Siem Reap on Friday.
Thaksin accused his foes in the incumbent Thai government of "false patriotism" during an economic lecture Thursday in the capital Phnom Penh.
Thailand has put all talks and cooperation programmes with Cambodia on hold and has torn up an oil and gas exploration deal signed during Thaksin's time in power.
Thailand and Cambodia have fought a series of deadly clashes on their border since July 2008 in a dispute over land around an ancient Cambodian temple that was granted UN World Heritage Status.