The move to seek the extradition of ousted prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra was proceeding at snail's pace through the Thai bureaucracy yesterday even as he was about to land in Phnom Penh for his first lecture on economic matters on Thursday.
Although Cambodia has vowed to throw out any extradition request, Bangkok seems determined to test that resolve. But Thailand's first hurdle could be its own bureaucratic clumsiness.
Sirisak Tiyaphan, chief prosecutor for foreign affairs at the Office of the Attorney-General (OAG), said documentation for the extradition had already been prepared and that all that was needed to proceed was an official request from the Foreign Ministry.
"As soon as we know Thaksin's exact address in Cambodia, we will submit a document requesting extradition to Phnom Penh, in accordance with the extradition treaty between the two countries," he said.
However, Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Vimon Kidchob said the ministry was awaiting the arrest warrant and related documents from the OAG.
"Once we obtain the document, we'll submit it through our embassy in Phnom Penh to seek extradition," she said.
Thailand has sent the same request to Fiji, Nicaragua and the United Arab Emirates but failed to establish an extradition trail in any of those countries so far.
Thailand and Cambodia signed an extradition treaty in 1998, but Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen has said he will not extradite Thaksin to Thailand, because the treaty prohibits sending anyone to face punishment for a political offence.
Thaksin was appointed Hun Sen's economic adviser and is scheduled to give a lecture in Phnom Penh on Thursday.
Thaksin's appointment has worsened tensions between Thailand and Cambodia. The neighbours have already been at loggerheads over the Preah Vihear Temple since last year.
The two countries have downgraded their diplomatic relations, and Thailand has terminated a maritime memorandum of understanding (MoU) signed during Thaksin's administration in 2001.
The Cabinet today will consider the decision to terminate the MoU.
The diplomatic row may affect financing for Highway 68 from Surin to Siem Reap, as a Bt1.4-billion tranche is due for disbursement in the middle of next year, said Neighbouring Countries Economic Development Cooperation Agency director Akarasiri Buranasiri.
"Still, it depends on the Thai government's policy. In the worst case, all funding will be stopped."
Cambodia could lose Bt30 billion to Bt40 billion in tourism revenue because of the conflict, which has encouraged European tourists to turn to northeastern Thailand instead, said Apichart Sankary, honorary adviser to the Association of Thai Travel Agents.
Thai Travel Agents Association president Charoen Wangananont said 20 per cent of Thai travellers who had cancelled packages to Cambodia had switched to Laos and 10 per cent to Burma. He said Cambodia stood to lose more tourism revenue than Thailand, because more than 600,000 Thais visited the country annually, against 60,000 Cambodian visitors to Thailand.Parliament yesterday failed to discuss documents for a joint boundary-demarcation commission. The government, opposition and Senate whips agreed to propose postponement of the discussion, because talks now could be sensitive.