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Thailand and Cambodia in row over Thaksin ahead of Obama visit

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Heng Sinith/AP

(Read caption) Ousted Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra stands in front of Angkor Wat, in Cambodia. Thaksin accused his detractors of false patriotism in a speech Thursday, following the uproar over his appointment as an economic adviser to the Cambodian government.

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A visit by a former leader to a neighboring country normally stirs little comment. But the arrival here of Thailand’s former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra has caused a nasty diplomatic row between Thailand and Cambodia.

It’s not hard to see why. Mr. Thaksin, who was ousted by a military coup in 2006 and lives in exile in Dubai, is scheming to make a comeback in Thailand. He’s wanted at home on a corruption-related conviction. The Thai government has revoked his passport and sought his extradition.

You might expect Cambodia, a neighbor and fellow member of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), to assist Thailand in tracking down their man. ASEAN puts great stock in warm relations among its members, who agree not to interfere in each other’s politics.

But you’d be wrong.

Far from turning him in, Cambodia’s veteran Prime Minister, Hun Sen, has embraced Thaksin as an “eternal friend.” On Thursday, Thaksin gave a lecture to a roomful of civil servants in his new role as an economic adviser to Cambodia. He has been wined and dined by his host.

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