BANGKOK (AP) — Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Manet arrived Wednesday in Thailand’s capital on his first official visit since becoming his country’s leader last year, seeking to renew the close ties the two countries have maintained in recent times.
In addition to meeting with his Thai counterpart, Srettha Thavisin, Hun Manet is slated to have a royal audience with King Maha Vajiralongkorn, preside over the signing of several documents on bilateral cooperation and address a Thailand-Cambodia business forum.
Hun Manet’s scheduled one-day visit “is an important opportunity for both countries to further strengthen the bilateral cooperation, especially in the economic development of border areas, promotion of two-way trade and investment, closer transportation connectivity, tourism cooperation as well as fostering closer ties between the peoples of the two kingdoms,” the Thai Foreign Ministry said in a statement.
Cambodian government spokesperson Pen Bona said Hun Manet’s visit would reaffirm the close relationship for peace, development and cooperation established by his father and predecessor, Hun Sen. Hun Sen stepped down as prime minister last year after 38 years in power, including periods of tensions with Thailand, especially over territorial disputes.
Human rights activists say that the cooperation extends to the repression of political dissidents. Several Cambodian opposition figures and other government critics who fled to Thailand to escape arrest under Hun Sen’s government were recently detained in Bangkok in an apparent effort to quash possible protests against Hun Manet.
Phil Robertson, deputy Asia director of Human Rights Watch, issued a statement appealing to Thai authorities to release the detained U.N.-recognized Cambodian refugees “and cease the crackdown on Cambodian rights and democracy activists who have fled to Thailand.”
“Hun Manet is proving to be the same kind of human rights abusing dictator that his father was, and Thailand should not cooperate with his expanding transnational repression efforts,” Robertson said.
Cambodian officials are keen to point out that Hun Manet and Srettha both assumed office on Aug. 22 last year and quickly set their relations on a positive course with congratulatory phone calls to each other. Srettha paid an official visit to Cambodia last September.
Cambodia and Thailand are neighboring countries with generally warm relations. Thailand’s economy dwarfs that of its neighbor, which is one of Asia’s poorest nations. Cambodia sends substantial numbers of laborers to Thailand to fill low-paying jobs, especially in the construction sector.
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