The Bangkok Post reported today that the former Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra offered to help the seven Thai nationals currently being detained in Cambodia. Among those arrested for trespassing in Banteay Meanchey province, a Democrat member of parliament for Bangkok, Panich Vikitsreth, told Phnom Penh Municipal Court yesterday that he had “unintentionally” crossed into Cambodian territory, according to his lawyer, as reported in the local media.
The border dispute between Cambodia and Thailand emerged after the Preah Vihear temple was listed as a world heritage site in 2008. However just shortly before the arrest of the seven Thais the neighboring countries had enjoyed an improved relationship. The unpredictable relationship between Cambodia and Thailand has always involved the ousted Thai prime minister, who now lives in exile.
A Cambodian court has started questioning the Thais accused of entering the country illegally. Thaksin’s offer to “mediate with Cambodia” could be a significant step for him to return to Thai politics, or at least earn sympathy from his citizens back home. The Thai billionaire politician still maintains a close relationship with Cambodian political leaders, including Prime Minister Hun Sen. In 2009, despite being desperately wanted by Thailand, Thaksin was appointed as a special advisor to the Cambodian government and Hun Sen, and protected from being extradited from Cambodia.
Will the fugitive ex-premier be able step in and play his influential mediation role to help release the Thais from Cambodian prison? His mission has to be first approved by current Thai PM Abhisit Vejjajiva.
While Thaksin may now be seen as a goodwill diplomat, his mediation role only puts pressure on the Abhisit government. So it seems there is a slight chance that this mission will ever be accomplished or happen.
Recommended link: The magnificent seven ride in the wrong direction
The Magnificent Seven isn’t just a cowboy movie starring Yul Brynner and Steve McQueen, it’s also a Thai soap opera. Follow me as I take you into this comical melodrama.
The goal is to rouse nationalistic fervour, have more people flock to the yellow banner and, at the very least, keep the People’s Alliance for Democracy (PAD) movement, and hence the New Politics Party, ”in the game”.
Being in the game means being in the news, and at present, the magnificent (but directionless) seven are making all the headlines – yes, including the one for this article.