Cambodian ex-premier Hun Sen visits ailing Thaksin Shinawatra in Thailand

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Former Cambodian leader Hun Sen visited Thailand’s Thaksin Shinawatra.

21st February 2024 – (Bangkok) The political landscape of Southeast Asia witnessed a moment of camaraderie as Cambodia’s former Prime Minister Hun Sen paid a visit to Thailand’s recently released ex-Premier Thaksin Shinawatra on Wednesday, February 21. The meeting, a significant event given the historical context, took place following Thaksin’s release from detention earlier in the week.

Thaksin Shinawatra, a central figure in Thailand’s political arena, was granted parole based on considerations of his age and reported health issues. At 74, he has recently been seen with a neck brace and arm supports, relying on a wheelchair for mobility. Despite a senior official affirming Thaksin’s severe health condition, public scepticism remains over the severity of his ailments.

Hun Sen, a stalwart in Cambodian politics who served as the prime minister for almost four decades, is known for his assertive style of leadership. He stepped down last year, passing the baton to his son. During his tenure, Hun Sen cultivated a strong alliance with Thaksin, offering him refuge during his 15 years of self-imposed exile after being ousted in a military coup in Thailand. Thaksin’s presence and activities in Cambodia during his exile were a source of tension between the two nations, with some in Thailand viewing it as undue interference.

The meeting between the two, as shared by Hun Sen on social media, was depicted as apolitical, although the broader implications of their alliance remain a topic of interest. Thaksin’s return to Thailand coincided with the appointment of a loyalist, Srettha Thavisin, as Thailand’s new prime minister, and with Hun Sen’s own political transition in Cambodia.

Thaksin’s legal troubles in Thailand included an eight-year prison sentence for conflict of interest and abuse of power, which was later commuted to one year by the monarch. His parole, after serving half his sentence, has sparked a flurry of speculation about his potential influence on the current Thai government, which is led by his family and allies.