Cambodia deploys huge security for Thaksin rally…Hun Sen private business partner in Kingdom?
PHNOM PENH - Cambodia will deploy thousands of security personnel to police a mass rally for ousted Thai premier Thaksin Shinawatra this weekend, officials said Thursday.
Thaksin, a deeply divisive figure in neighbouring Thailand who lives abroad to avoid a jail term for corruption, is set to address tens of thousands of his “Red Shirt” supporters on Saturday in northwestern Siem Reap province.
Phnom Penh said it will foot the bill to provide crowd control and protection for the former Thai leader, who has strong links to Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen.
“We have a duty to provide security for Thai people and for Thaksin,” national police spokesman Kirt Chantharith told AFP.
He said there was no specific threat to anyone’s safety, but noted that the Red Shirts had a long-standing rivalry with Thai political opponents.
“This is a huge and historical event,” he said. “Many thousands of security forces will be in place,” including national police, military police, soldiers and bodyguards.
Mass rallies by Thaksin’s supporters in the Thai capital in 2010 descended into the kingdom’s worst political violence in decades, with more than 90 people – mostly civilians – killed in a military crackdown.
Thaksin remains a much-loved figure for many poor Thais, but is hated by much of the Bangkok-based elite in military, palace and bureaucratic circles who see him as autocratic and a threat to the monarchy.
The former tycoon, whose sister Yingluck became prime minister in Thailand last year, told the Red Shirts via a video address from neighbouring Laos on Wednesday that he expects to set foot in Thailand again this year.
Tep Bunchhay, the governor of Siem Reap town, best known as the gateway to Cambodia’s famed temples, told AFP by telephone that authorities had prepared a large campsite for the visitors.
He confirmed that Phnom Penh would take care of those expenses as well, though he expected “some of it” might be paid back by Thailand’s ruling Puea Thai Party.
Thaksin’s fans will also be granted free entry to the Angkor temple complex during their stay, both officials said. A standard day pass to the country’s most popular tourist attraction costs $20.
Cambodia and Thailand traded heavy arms fire over a disputed border in early 2011 under the previous Thai government. But ties have warmed significantly since Yingluck took power, largely thanks to her brother whom Hun Sen has called an “eternal friend”.