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Thaksin Most Welcome: Government Official

Were ousted Thai prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra to come to Cambodia, the country would not extradite him, a government statement said Friday.

Prime Minister Hun Sen said earlier this week he would welcome the former premier to Cambodia, which prompted a rebuke from Bangkok.

“Cambodia will not extradite in following of any eventual request by Thai government, in case the former Thai prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra decides to stay in Cambodia,” according to a government statement.

Thaksin, who was ousted in 2006 by a military coup, lives in exile in Dubai. He faces a two-year jail term for corruption in Thailand.

The extradition treaty between Cambodia and Thailand allows either party to deny extradition in cases of “political offenses,” among others, the Cambodian statement said.

“The Cambodian government has the right to interpret these two points [on whether] the case of Thaksin Shinawatra is a political case or not,” it said.

Hun Sen told reporters Wednesday after a meeting with Thaksin supporter Chavalit Yongchaiyudh, a member of the opposition Puea Thai Party, Thaksin was “a political victim.”

“I respect and like him more now than when he was a prime minister,” Hun Sen said. “I have prepared a house where Thaksin can stay at any time.”

Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva responded, saying if Thaksin entered Cambodia, “the extradition process will begin.”

“If Cambodia failed to comply with the treaty on the extradition, that would be another story,” he said.

The Cambodian statement said Hun Sen’s invitation was one of long friendship and should not be interpreted as “interference of Thailand’s internal affairs.”

Hun Sen left Friday for Hua Hin, Thailand, where Asean leaders are holding a summit. He is expected to hold talks with Abhisit there.