Accessibility links

Breaking News

Analysts See New Page in Upcoming Thai Visits

Thailand's first female Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra arrives for the first cabinet meeting at the Government House in Bangkok August 11, 2011.
Thailand's first female Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra arrives for the first cabinet meeting at the Government House in Bangkok August 11, 2011.

The dual visits this week of Thailand’s new prime minister, Yingluck Shinawatra, and her brother, Thaksin, who was ousted from that position in 2006, could create an amicable environment for talks on a range of issues, analysts said Tuesday.

Yingluck, who was elected in July, is scheduled to arrive on Thursday, with Thaksin preparing for a weeklong trip starting Friday.

Between the two, talks over an ongoing military border stand-off, on maritime petroleum resources and on the release of two jailed Thai activists could all take place, analysts said.

Prime Minister Hun Sen said Monday he would not be holding political talks with Thaksin, a politically divisive figure who remains in exile from Thailand to avoid corruption charges there. However, his coming signals improved engagement with the new Thai government, which is led by his sister and former supporters.

Official talks are scheduled between Hun Sen and Yingluck only.

“First, I think talks will focus on reconciliation,” said Pavin Chachavalpongpun, a policy and strategy analyst at the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies. Such talks would likely focus on reconciliation of the border dispute near Preah Vihear temple, which flared in July 2008 and has cost a number of lives on both sides in skirmishes over the years.

“Second, the two sides could talk about shared development in the disputed maritime territories,” he said. “However, Yingluck will have to make sure that this process is transparent and will not be for the benefit of anyone in particular.”

“Third, it could mean the release of two Thais jailed last year in Cambodia,” he said, referring to the cases of Veera Somkwamkid and Ratree Pipattanapaiboon, activists of the Thailand Patriot Network, who were allegedly caught on the Cambodian side of the border and charged with spying.

“I think this is a positive visit, and I believe that a positive outcome will come from these trips,” he said. “I think this is a new beginning of Thailand and Cambodia’s relationship.”

As for Thaksin’s visit, he said, “We will never know what kind of discussions there may be.” But he said Thaksin is fond of Cambodia, as it is close to his home, and that he may want to prove himself a “legitimate” leader for the Thais.

“I think Thaksin chose the same week as his sister’s visit to put himself in the limelight once again,” he said. “On the positive side, it seems that bilateral ties between the two countries are on the mend.”

Chheang Vannarith, executive director of the Cambodian Institute for Cooperation and Peace, said the two visits will create a “multiplying effect.”

He too said top agenda items will be the border, maritime boundaries and the two jailed activists.

A more peaceful border will mean the return of “trade, tourism and investment,” he said. “This is a new page in Cambodian and Thai history.”

However, he warned caution in talks over oil in gas. “For Cambodia, we want an agreement, particularly in maritime issues, so that we can extract oil resources at the end of next year,” he said.