Cambodia refused a request from Thailand yesterday to extradite fugitive former Thai premier Thaksin Shinawatra, adding fuel to a widening diplomatic row that threatens to worsen Thailand's political crisis.
Cambodia's Foreign Ministry rejected the request just moments after a Thai diplomat submitted it in person, saying it does not recognise Thailand's charges against Thaksin, who was ousted in a 2006 coup and later sentenced to two years in prison for corruption. It said Thaksin was toppled by the military after being "overwhelmingly and democratically elected by the Thai people".
Thaksin, a billionaire former telecommunications tycoon twice elected in landslides, had been living in self-imposed exile, largely in Dubai, before arriving in Phnom Penh on Tuesday as a guest of Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen, who has offered him a job as economic adviser, infuriating the Thai government.
Thaksin's presence in Cambodia, where he intends to give a speech today, has fired up passions on both sides of Thailand's political divide while drawing attention to a border where troops have clashed in the past year. Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva said he regretted Cambodia's decision.