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Cablegate: Thaksin Returns for Round Two

VZCZCXRO5110
RR RUEHCHI RUEHDT RUEHHM RUEHNH
DE RUEHPF #0912 3480907
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 140907Z DEC 09
FM AMEMBASSY PHNOM PENH
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 1447
INFO RUCNASE/ASEAN MEMBER COLLECTIVE

UNCLAS PHNOM PENH 000912

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

STATE FOR EAP/MLS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PREL PGOV MOPS CB
SUBJECT: THAKSIN RETURNS FOR ROUND TWO

REF: PHNOM PENH 831

SENSITIVE BUT UNCLASSIFIED

1. (SBU) Former Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra arrived via
private jet on December 13 for his second visit to Phnom Penh since
his appointment as Economic Advisor to the Royal Government of
Cambodia (RGC) (reftel). His itinerary began with a visit to Prey
Sar prison in Phnom Penh to meet the Thai engineer convicted of
spying for passing the former Prime Minister's flight information to
the Thai embassy during his last visit in November. On December 11,
King Norodom Sihamoni pardoned the engineer, Sivarak Chutipong, which
Thaksin reportedly attributed to the "efforts of the Puea Thai
party." Minister of Information Khieu Kanharith added a small dig at
the Thais when announcing the pardon, calling it a "humanitarian act"
to free Sivarak, who had been "used" by a Thai government that
refused to take responsibility for his actions. Hun Sen marked
Sivarak's release with a ceremony at his residence on December 14;
Thaksin arrived at the PM's residence shortly after the ceremony for
a private meeting.

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2. (SBU) Most observers believe that this latest visit is merely a
continuation of Hun Sen and Thaksin using each other for mutual gain.
Maintaining a friendship with Thaksin allows Hun Sen to continue to
goad Thai PM Abhsit Vejjajiva, with the added benefit of gaining an
advisor in economic growth and trade, areas in which Cambodia is
struggling. Meanwhile, Thaksin is clearly taking advantage of his
relationship with Hun Sen and Cambodia's close proximity to maintain
his visibility, meet with his supporters, and assess the political
climate in Thailand.

3. (SBU) While the timing of the visit to coincide with Sivarak's
release appears to be an attempt to credit Thaksin and the Puea Thai
party with this intervention, Thaksin does seem to be making some
effort to provide advice to officials on issues related to economic
development. Thanksin is reportedly scheduled to deliver a lecture
at the Ministry of Economy and Finance December 15. An official at
the Ministry of Tourism confirmed that the RGC was organizing
workshops on agriculture, tourism, trade, and investment for director
of department-level government officials. According to an official
at the Ministry of Commerce, Thaksin plans to meet December 16 with
the Minister of Commerce and officials at the Council for the
Development of Cambodia to discuss improvements to the investment
climate in Cambodia.

RODLEY

© Scoop Media

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