Thailand reviews aid to Cambodia after Thaksin row

Tue Nov 17, 2009 12:25am EST

BANGKOK, Nov 17 (Reuters) – Thailand’s cabinet was reviewing aid to Cambodia on Tuesday, a government official said, the latest move in a diplomatic row triggered by a visit by fugitive former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra to the neighbouring country.

The cabinet will discuss various retaliatory measures, including freezing low-interest loans to build roads in Cambodia, during its weekly meeting, said Panitan Wattanayagorn, deputy secretary-general to Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva.

“Most of the projects discussed are aid and loans for infrastructure projects, which might be delayed or cancelled,” Panitan said.

“The government will also look at all other projects with Cambodia and discuss appropriate measures, but we will make sure it does not hurt the public.”

Thaksin went to Cambodia after its prime minister, Hun Sen, offered him a job as an economic adviser. The Cambodian government rejected Bangkok’s request to extradite him.

Thaksin returned to self-imposed exile last year ahead of a court judgment that found him guilty of violating a conflict of interest law while in office and sentenced him to two years in jail. He was ousted in a bloodless military coup in 2006.

His visit to Cambodia further strained relations between the two neighbours. They recalled their ambassadors and a Thai man was arrested in Cambodia for alleged spying.

Panitan said the cabinet would discuss ways to assist the man, who works as an engineer for the Cambodia Air Traffic Services (CATS).

He is accused of sending Thaksin’s flight schedule to a Thai diplomat, who was expelled from Cambodia last week for allegedly breaching diplomatic protocol.

The Thai government says the information was publicly available. An embassy official in Phnom Penh was allowed to see the engineer on Tuesday but was not informed of any formal charges.

Abhisit urged Cambodia on Monday to follow “international standards” in pursuing any case against him.

Thailand has already said it would scrap a 2001 memorandum of understanding on energy development in the Gulf of Thailand.

The agreement was signed under Thaksin’s administration, with the aim of finding a way to jointly develop oil and gas resources in disputed waters, although little progress has been made.

Thaksin left Cambodia on Saturday. He spends most of his time in Dubai. (Reporting by Pracha Hariraksapitak; Writing by Ambika Ahuja; Editing by Alan Raybould)

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