Wednesday, 6 July 2011

Cambodia welcomes Thai election results

Thaksin Shinawatra described his sister Yingluck as his "clone"
Cambodia has expressed its pleasure at Thailand's election results, as Thailand's opposition Puea Thai Party won a landslide victory on Sunday 3rd July.

Puea Thai's leader, Yingluck Shinawatra, who only entered politics six weeks ago, is the youngest sister of former Thai prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra, who in 2009 and 2010 served as a special economic advisor to Cambodia's Prime Minister Hun Sen.

“We cannot hide that we are happy with the victory of the Puea Thai Party,” Cambodia's Foreign Minister Hor Namhong told reporters after making a toast with a glass of champagne with diplomats.

“We hope this new government will solve the problems with Cambodia more positively and more peacefully,” Hor said.

The Phnom Penh Post reported that incoming prime minister, Yingluck Shinawatra, said on 4th July that restoration of ties with neighbouring countries would be a priority for the new government.

While she did not name any specific countries, it is understood that she was referring to Cambodia.

Tension between the two southeast Asia neighbours resulted in border clashes in February and April this year. The fighting left nearly 30 people dead and destroyed many homes.

Much of the tension revolves around the eleventh century Hindu Preah Vihear temple. While the International Court of Justice (ICJ) ruled that the temple lay in Cambodian territory in a 1962 ruling, the grounds around the temple were not demarcated and have proved a thorny issue since.

The difficulties between Cambodia's Hun and Thailand's outgoing prime minister Abhisit Vejjajiva were well known. In 2009, Hun said Abhisit had “no family honour” and said he was the most difficult Thai leader he had ever worked with, according to the Phnom Penh Post.

Hun's relationship with Thaksin, who was ousted in a military coup in 2006, is known to be very close. Hun has called Thasin his “eternal friend” and he appointed him an economic advisor.

Thaksin, who was convicted in absentia on corruption charges, now lives in self-imposed exile in Dubai.

Analysts believe the election of a pro-Thaksin government in Bangkok will bring in a period of closer relations with Cambdoia.

“Cambodian officials have said border conflicts surrounding old temples can be resolved [immediately with a new Thai government]. The prospect is better now than under Democrat Party rule,” University of Indonesia Southeast Asian political expert Cecep Hidayat was quoted in the Jakarta Post as saying.

Indonesia, as current chair of ASEAN, played a large role in trying to encourage talks between the two sides in recent months. It is expected to make a push to resume negotiations once Yingluck has taken office.

The Bangkok Post reported that as news of the election results came in, Cambodian soldiers at the border expressed delight at the news and said the atmosphere relaxed considerably.

Sources: Bangkok Post, Jakarta Post, Phnom Penh Post, Reuters

For more information, please see the Menas Borders website, here.

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