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Thais Protest Over Soldiers on Border

Nearly 500 Thai protesters gathered in front of the Cambodian Embassy in Bangkok Monday to protest the presence of Cambodian troops near Preah Vihear temple. Soldiers from both countries have been entrenched along the border since July 2008.

The protest follows remarks from ousted Thai premier Thaksin Shinawatra that he would not accept exile status from Cambodia. Prime Minister Hun Sen angered Bangkok last week by announcing he would welcome Thaksin in Cambodia without abiding by an extradition treaty.

The protesters demanded that Cambodian troops leave the area around Preah Vihear temple, which they claim belongs to Thailand.

Koy Kong, a spokesman for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, called the demand “illegal.”

“Cambodia cannot accept the demand by Thai protestors,” he said.

Meanwhile, officials said Monday that Thaksin’s statements were likely to cool the ongoing war of words between leaders of the two countries.

“Thaksin showed his support for the Bangkok government,” by declining Hun Sen’s exile invitation, said Kem Sokha, head of the opposition Human Rights Party.

“If Thaksin makes asylum in Cambodia, it degrades the Thai government,” he said. “So, Thaksin does not want to degrade the Bangkok government in the name of the nation. Thaksin thinks of the national interest more than his personal interest.”

Yim Sovann, a spokesman for the Sam Rainsy Party, said Thakisn’s declining to come to Cambodia would “avoid an uncomfortable feeling between the ruling parties of Cambodia and Thailand.”

However, Ny Chakrya, chief investigator for the rights group Adhoc, said Thaksin may also want to keep his political options open. Were he to seek political asylum in Cambodia, he would not be allowed to participate in politics in Thailand. “So he decided not to go to Cambodia.”

Thaksin lives in exile and faces a two-year jail term on charges of corruption if he returns to Thailand.