Diplomatic war between Cambodia and Thailand

Cambodia has expelled a senior diplomat at the Thai embassy, and Thailand responded in kind as the two nations carried on a sharp dispute over the fugitive former Thai prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra.

Mr Thaksin was named as an adviser to Cambodia's government on economic affairs last week, causing Thailand to recall its ambassador, with Cambodia following suit. Mr Thaksin is now visiting Cambodia, further straining relations.

Cambodia's foreign ministry said yesterday that the first secretary of the Thai embassy had been given 48 hours to leave the country for carrying out activities inconsistent with his official duties. He refused to say what the activities were. Thailand responded by ordering out the first secretary of Cambodia's mission in Bangkok. It is standard diplomatic practice for nations to respond to expulsions on a tit-for-tat basis.

Mr Thaksin's appointment by Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen badly strained relations between the two countries, which had already fought several deadly skirmishes over disputed territory in the past 18 months.

Mr Thaksin had earlier accused his detractors of false patriotism following an uproar over his appointment as a Cambodian adviser. Speaking to hundreds of Cambodian economists in Phnom Penh yesterday, Mr Thaksin said he had much to offer the impoverished country and was hopeful that critics in his homeland would see the benefits of an economically stable neighbour.

He later flew to Siem Reap in northern Cambodia to play golf and visit the Angkor Wat, the country's most famous temple. Ironically, Siem Reap means "Defeat of Siam", referring to the centuries-old struggles between Cambodia and Thailand. AP