August 17, 2011

Oil deal: Thaksin to visit Cambodia


Former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra will visit Cambodia late this week to meet with leaders and investors in Phnom Penh, notably on an oil-and-gas concession in the Gulf of Thailand where claims overlap, a Pheu Thai Party source said yesterday.

Thaksin, who is expected to be in the country for two days from August 19 on Friday and Saturday, will take some foreign investors to meet and play golf with Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen and Defence Minister Tea Banh to make the business deal, the source said.

Many Pheu Thai MPs are preparing to greet Thaksin while he is in Cambodia, the source said.

Thaksin will help negotiate with Cambodia on a plan for joint development of a petroleum venture in the Gulf of Thailand where both countries claim the rights. He wants state-run PTT to have a stake in the oil-and-gas concession or enter a joint venture with Cambodia, the source said.

Thaksin has asked Energy Minister Pichai Naripthaphan to cooperate with Cambodia on the energy deal, the source said.

Thaksin is always welcome in Cambodia, as he has personal connections with Hun Sen. He was an adviser to the prime minister and the Cambodian government but stepped down after the position provoked serious conflict with Thailand.

However, the maritime deal between Thailand and Cambodia is in limbo, as the former government under Abhisit Vejjajiva scrapped a 2001 memorandum of understanding signed with the neighbouring country. It remains unclear whether the pact has been terminated.

Thaksin began making high-profile visits to foreign countries shortly after his younger sister Yingluck Shinawatra took office as prime minister.

He is scheduled to visit Japan late this month under a plan facilitated by Foreign Minister Surapong Towichukchaikul. The private visit needed involvement from the Thai government as Japanese immigration law prohibited any foreigner sentenced to more than one year's imprisonment from entering the country. After the Thai government request, the Japanese Justice Ministry issued Thaksin a special entry visa, according to a Japanese official.

Yingluck said her government did not make the request to Japan but Surapong simply told Tokyo the current Thai government had no policy to block Thaksin's movements abroad.

"It's under consideration by the Japanese government; nobody could order [another] foreign government," she said.

Asked why the government had not asked for Thaksin's extradition from Japan, Yingluck said her government had no special policy concerning the former prime minister.

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