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ASEAN ANALYSIS  30  August 2010

Cambodia, Thaksin, Thailand

By David Swartzentruber
AseanAffairs   30 August 2010

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On August 24, the government of the kingdom of Cambodia announced that fugitive former Thai prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra, aka, Thaksin Sinatra, Taki Shinawat, had resigned his position as that government’s economic adviser. He assumed the economic role as an unpaid adviser in October 2009.

Within the past week, Thailand has resumed positive relations with her next-door neighbor , Cambodia. The Thai ambassador is now back in Phnom Penh and the Cambodian ambassador has returned to Bangkok.

The prime ministers involved, Abihist Vejjajiva of Thailand and Hun Sen of Cambodia have assured nationalists on both sides of the border that the festering dispute over the ancient Hindu temple, Preah Vihear ,that straddles the border can be resolved through negotiation. Previously, there have military confrontations between the armed forces of each country, egged on by the nationalists in each country.

Another bilateral concern that Thaksin’s role put a chill on was the overlapping claims of the the two countries in the Gulf of Thailand.

In another development, Thailand has resumed the funding of a road project with Cambodia that will improve communication between the two neighbors . The Thai funding is estimated at US$41.2. Although Cambodia’s textile industry is now being cited as making Cambodia a “mini-tiger” economy, it is indeed a much poorer country than Thailand and Thaksin’s ties with the country hit Cambodia in the pocketbook.

Data from the Council for the Development of Cambodia show that Thai investments in Cambodia shrank from US$178 million in the first half of 2009 to US$2 million the first six months of 2010. Cambodia’s exports to Thailand also shrank by 50 percent.

Thaksin’s resignation came at an appropriate time as in the weeks before it, the tensions about the Preah Vihear temple had again been mounting.

Since the May 19 red shirt protest ended, Thaksin, who has two warrants for his arrest outstanding, has been maintaining a low profile and has not been twittering on his Twitter account.

The last report is that he is on good terms with the Sultan of Brunei and has forsaken Cambodia for that country. Perhaps now the Thai and Cambodian governments can work together more peacefully on issues of joint concern and benefit and Thaksin can fly around in his US$43 million jet working on his network of friends and investments.

In preparing for this story, the other evening I ran across a segment on youtube that readers may find of interest. The segment illustrates Mr. Thaksin’s many travels:

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