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Infrastructure and Education, Thaksin Advises

Thaksin Shinawatra, former Thai prime minister, center, sits together with Cambodian Deputy Prime Minister Sok An, left, as Thaksin gives a lecture to Cambodian economists in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, Saturday, Sept. 17, 2011.

Thailand’s exiled former premier Thaksin Shinawatra said Monday he saw potential in Cambodia’s economic growth, which has buoyed in 2011 following recovery with garments and tourism.

Thaksin said in a lecture at the Asian Economic Forum, held at the Council of Ministers’ building, that Cambodia had shown strong growth compared to the region.

His talk at the forum was part of a nearly weeklong trip, which included a meetings with Prime Minister Hun Sen, economists and other economic officials on Saturday.

Thaksin, who was ousted from Thailand in a bloodless coup in 2006, recommended Cambodia bolster state spending on infrastructure and education, as well as modernizing its financial system.

The Asian Development Bank said last week Cambodia’s growth rate will likely reach 6.8 percent this year.

Chan Sophal, president of the Cambodian Economic Association, said Cambodia has potential for even more growth, perhaps 10 percent, but that the country needs to “work hard.”

“The leaders of the Kingdom of Cambodia will be encouraged by Thaksin’s speech,” he said.

However, Son Chhay, a lawmaker for the opposition Sam Rainsy Party, said Monday that Cambodia, which exports about $2 billion in goods abroad, only exports only $50 million in goods to Thailand, with which it has a large deficit.

“Be careful what Thai political veterans say about Cambodia’s economic situation,” he said. “We can suppose that in such a speech [Thaksin] is flattering us to gain a benefit from us.”

Kem Sokha, president of the Human Rights Party, said Thaksin may also be focused on developing petroleum resources on the coast. Thaksin’s speech was flattering of Cambodia, Kem Sokha said, “to provide opportunity for him.”