Thaksin Shinawatra: Cambodia’s advisor par excellence?

Op-Ed by Khmerization
15th November, 2009

“Mr. Thaksin, due to his business success and his wealth of economic knowledge, could be Cambodia’s advisor par excellence if he is not a fugitive of the Thai government. However, under the political climate and his fugitive status, he is advisor non par excellence.”



In have opined and editorialised in the past that I see no benefits in the appointment of Mr. Thaksin as Cambodian government’s advisor, beside to irk and to irritate Thailand. Mr. Thaksin would not be able to entice billions of dollars of trades and investments to Cambodia.

In fact, his lecture delivered in Phnom Penh on Thursday the 12th of November has proved just that. His advice had turned out to be not a magic wand for Cambodia’s current economic woes. It was just another seminar and lecture given by a person of high calibre. The seminar failed to attract a single cent of investment to Cambodia. And even Mr. Thaksin himself refused to commit to an investment project in the casino complex in Koh Kong he agreed earlier with Mr. Hun Sen because he is distrustful of Mr. Hun Sen and foresees the political uncertainty and instability his appointment could bring to bear. Mr. Thaksin’s lecture and seminar, if anything at all, is just a simple lecture and seminar by an “economic expert” that Mr. Thaksin is portrayed and purported to be. It has nothing to do with his economic advice to the Cambodian government, but more to do with his political speech. In fact, the seminar has been used as a forum to deliver his political condemnations of the present Abhisit government, which he accused of stoking “false patriotism”.

In perspective, one would like to think that Mr. Hun Sen had opted to gamble away Cambodia’s good relations with the Thai government by risking Cambodia’s larger national interests for the trouble that Mr. Thaksin’s appointment would bring. Mr Hun Sen’s decision to choose personal interests over national interests is beyond anyone’s imagination and comprehension. Mr. Hun Sen might have foreseen that Mr. Thaksin has the support of the majority of the Thai people and eventually he could be returned to government at the next elections. Mr. Hun Sen’s calculated risks or miscalculations with Mr. Thaksin could be a recipe for irreparable damages to Cambodia’s national interests and good relations with future Thai governments.

Cambodia’s association with Mr. Thaksin under the current political environment is a big risk and a recipe for disaster that Mr. Hun Sen should not gamble with. If Mr. Hun Sen thinks that by appointing his “eternal friend” as his advisor will help him gain power in Thailand, then he is wrong. Opinion polls show that Mr. Thaksin’s popularity rating after his appointment has plunged abysmally and Mr. Abhisit’s popularity rating has tripled. The majority of Thai people are against him now, especially after he allegedly said in the interview with the British Times newspaper about the Thai monarchy’s interferences in Thai politics. This remark is considered a lese-majeste offence under Thai laws that carries severe penalty.

Mr. Thaksin’s perceived return to government is a remote possibility. He is fighting an uphill political battle. All the Thai Establishments- the Army, the Court, the bureaucracy and, most importantly, the revered Monarchy, are all against him and are working hard to make sure that he is kept at bay. His acceptance of Mr. Hun Sen’s appointment could be his last straw and his political endgame. His trouble with the revered monarch, who is quietly working behind the scene to end his political life, could spearhead and precipitate his downfall.

However, assume hypothetically that Mr. Thaksin will return to power one day in Thailand. Mr. Hun Sen should not expect the future “Thaksin government” to be more sympathetic to Cambodia’s border woes either. Mr. Hun Sen should know very well that it was Mr. Thaksin’s proxy, the Samak-Nappodon government which sent Thai troops to invade Preah Vihear on 15th July 2008. And the first armed conflict on 15th October 2008 between Khmer and Thai troops happened when Mr. Somchai Wongsawath, who is Mr. Thaksin’s brother-in-law, was the Prime Minister of Thailand. Above all, the burning of Thai embassy in Phnom Penh in 2003 happened during the prime ministership of Mr. Thaksin.

Mr. Hun Sen is knowingly or unknowingly using Thaksin as a Trojan horse to re-gain political influence in Thailand, but he must be mindful that Mr. Thaksin could be a Pandora’s box that could unleash evils and social ills into Cambodian society. While Cambodia’s Finance Minister Keat Chhon hoped that Mr. Thaksin’s appointment could help spearhead Thaksinomics -Thaksin’s economic policy of rural self-sufficiency - in Cambodia, Thai Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya fears the appointment could help import Thaksinocracy - Thaksin’s corrupt style of rule - into the already corrupt Cambodian bureaucracy.

Hun Sen’s support for the revitalisation of Mr. Thaksin’s political comeback, as far as the Thai Establishments is concerned, is a lost cause. As such, Mr. Hun Sen’s association with Mr. Thaksin against the will of the present Thai government is a gamble and a recipe for potential disastrous armed and diplomatic conflict with present and future Thai governments.

In hindsight, all Cambodians from all political persuasions should look back and ask, is Mr. Thaksin’s appointment worth the trouble that it has brought to Cambodian and Thai relations? With the escalated and worsened diplomatic row caused by his appointment, that Cambodia should better do without, we all should realise by now that Mr. Thaksin’s appointment is not at the best interests of Cambodia and the Cambodian people. His appointment has degenerated and culminated into the downgrade of diplomatic ties, annulments of border agreements and the halt of economic aid by Thailand. And now the row reached boiling point after the arrest for espionage of an alleged Thai spy that led to more expulsions of diplomats from both countries.

While the present Thai government is doing its best to trample and demonise Cambodia through its arrogant diplomatic gestures as well as its military superiority, Mr. Hun Sen should sometimes swallow his pride, close his eyes and apply cool diplomacy for the sake of Cambodia’s national interests. The wild-mannered behaviours that have been displayed by Mr. Hun Sen so far have not helped Cambodia’s cause and is a bad publicity coup that Cambodia could do without. These sorts of crude diplomacy can undoubtedly tarnish Cambodia’s international image that makes Cambodians look like the bellicose and belligerent people in the eyes of the world.

To conclude this editorial, may I say that, Mr. Thaksin, due to his business success and his wealth of economic knowledge, could be Cambodia’s advisor par excellence if he is not a fugitive of the Thai government. However, under the political climate and his fugitive status, he is advisor non par excellence.

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Posted by Khmerization
Thaksin Shinawatra: Cambodia’s advisor par excellence? Thaksin Shinawatra: Cambodia’s advisor par excellence? Reviewed by Sopheap Chhin on 6:52:00 AM Rating: 5

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