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Cambodia rejects Bangkok's request to extradite Thaksin

Cambodian officials have formally refused to extradite fugitive former premier Thaksin Shinawatra (pictured) to Thailand. Cambodia's appointment of Thaksin as economic adviser to the government has stoked tension between the two countries.

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AFP - Cambodian officials handed over a formal letter to Thai diplomats Wednesday refusing to extradite fugitive former premier Thaksin Shinawatra, an AFP reporter saw.

Three Thai diplomats gave extradition papers to officials at Cambodia's foreign affairs ministry early Wednesday but were then handed back a note from Phnom Penh denying their request.

"Our diplomatic note answering them is nothing beyond rejecting the extradition request," Cambodian Foreign Minister Hor Namhong told AFP shortly before officials from the two countries exchanged the formal letters.

Thaksin, who was toppled three years ago in a coup and is living abroad to avoid a jail term for corruption, arrived in Cambodia on Tuesday to take up his new job as economic advisor to the government and was welcomed by Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen.

Cambodia had vowed to refuse any request from its larger neighbour for the extradition of the billionaire tycoon, saying that the charges levelled against Thaksin in Thailand were politically motivated.

"Thaksin's conviction is caused by the coup in September 2006, when he was the prime minister of Thailand whom Thai people voted in with an overwhelming majority in accordance with democracy," Hor Namhong said.

Tensions are already running high between the two countries following a series of clashes over a temple on their border and the row threatens to mar a weekend summit of Southeast Asian leaders with US President Barack Obama.

The two countries withdrew their respective ambassadors last week.

In Bangkok, Thailand's foreign ministry said it was waiting for official confirmation from the embassy in Phnom Penh that Cambodia had denied its request.

"If it is true, we will consider the next measures to take," the ministry's deputy spokesman Thani Thongpakdi told AFP.

Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva has said the country may terminate its extradition treaty with Cambodia if Phnom Penh refuses to send Thaksin home to face justice.
 

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