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Authorities Wary of Red Shirt ‘Government in Exile’ Claims

Pro-government "red shirts" rally in Nakhon Pathom province on the outskirts of Bangkok, file photo.
Cambodian authorities say they are investigating whether a Thai “Red Shirt” movement is indeed seeking to form a government in exile within its borders, following a military coup in Thailand last month.

The coup ousted Yingluck Shinawatra as prime minister, and supporters of her and her brother, former premier Thaksin Shinawatra, himself removed in a coup in 2006, have said in media reports they are seeking an outside country in which to reestablish a government.

Khieu Sopheak, a spokesman for Cambodia’s Ministry of Interior, told VOA Khmer that Cambodia will respond “positively” to the current military government in control of Thailand, including banning people from the country.

The Thai military government has sought the return of Thaksin supporters, sometimes known as Red Shirts, including political activists, intellectuals and others.

Khieu Sopheak said Cambodian authorities have checked arrival and departure records at major border crossings for the name of Jakrapob Penkair, a prominent Thaksin supporter who told reporters recently the Red Shirts are seeking a place to establish a government in exile.

Koy Kuong, a spokesman for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said Wednesday that reports Cambodia could be one such place are “rumors.”

Still, “it doesn’t mean it can’t happen,” said Lao Mong Hay, an independent political analyst. Cambodia has no strict controls of its borders, he said, and Thaksin and his allies have typically been friendly with Cambodian officials.

It is unlikely they will officially set up shop in Cambodia, he said, but “it could happen in some form.”