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Friday, November 13, 2009

Cambodia says row should stay off US-ASEAN summit agenda

Bangkok/Phnom Penh - Cambodia said Friday that deteriorating relations between it and Thailand should not be discussed at this weekend's summit between the US and the Association of South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN).

Both countries are members of the ten-nation regional bloc.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Koy Koung said Cambodia would like ASEAN to help resolve the row, but felt the summit was not the appropriate venue.

'[Cambodia] will not get this issue involved in the US-ASEAN summit on Sunday,' Koy Koung said. 'Also we request that the other ASEAN leaders also not get this issue involved.'

Koy Koung said Cambodia wants the summit 'to proceed successfully' and remains open to any solution to the row with Thailand.
 
'Cambodia welcomes all means of solution - bilateral, multilateral, regional or international - we are prepared for all means of settlement,' he added.

The comments came after days of high political drama that followed the appointment last week of Thailand's fugitive former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra to advisory positions in Cambodia.
 
Thaksin arrived in Phnom Penh Tuesday before giving a speech to government officials and businessmen on Thursday.
 
Thailand was further angered when its request to extradite Thaksin was rejected by Phnom Penh, which regards his outstanding two-year jail term as politically motivated.
 
Earlier on Friday Thailand's Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya rejected as 'defamation and slander' Cambodian government claims that a Thai mechanic had spied on Thaksin.
 
Cambodian authorities on Thursday detained Siwarak Chothipong, 31, who is employed by flight control firm Cambodia Air Traffic Services, accusing him of seeking Thaksin's flight details and passing them on to unnamed government officials in Thailand.
 
Kasit said on Thai television the arrest was 'absurd' and 'a mischievous frame-up.'
 
Cambodia's national police spokesman, Kirt Chantharith, told the German Press Agency dpa late Friday that Siwarak Chothipong was in breach of national security laws and would be prosecuted. He faces up to 5 years in jail if convicted.

'He tried to get and transmit information abroad relating to the flight of Excellency Thaksin Shinawatra,' Kirt Chantharith said. 'We consider this activity is relating to the national security of Cambodia.'
 
The arrest of Siwarak Chothipong was swiftly followed by the expulsion of the first secretary at the Thai embassy in Phnom Penh for 'performing his duty contrary to his position,' Koy Koung said.
 
Some media reports have linked the two events, but neither Koy Koung nor Kirt Chantharith would confirm that.
 
The two kingdoms have already expelled each others' ambassadors.
 
Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva said his government would not be lured into a trap by the Cambodian authorities, but would move cautiously.
 
Thaksin remains popular with much of the rural poor in Thailand due to his populist economic policies.
 
On Friday, 22 members of parliament and 15 senators signed a letter demanding that Ramkhamhaeng University revoke an honorary degree it awarded to Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen.
 
One government legislator also demanded the Thai army should stop providing Hun Sen and his family with free health care, an arrangement that has allegedly been going on for decades.

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