Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen has been criticised for being overly generous to red-shirt supporters of former Thai premier Thaksin Shinawatra, who is in Cambodia this weekend.
Many Cambodians were upset that their PM allowed red shirts from Thailand to visit Angkor Wat without having to pay the US$20 (Bt600) entrance fee. The move could cause Cambodia to lose about Bt30 million in revenue, a source said yesterday.
Hun Sen also ordered more than 10 VIP buses to pick up red shirts arriving in Cambodia from the Thai border town of Aranyaprathet.
Sa Kaew Immigration deputy superintendent Pol Lt-General Ben-chapol Rodsawat said some 164 buses, vans, pick-ups and cars carried 7,432 red shirts to Cambodia.
The arrival of the red shirts caused traffic chaos and criticism among many Cambodians in the border town of Poi Pet, which is opposite Thailand’s Sa Kaew.
Tong Yii, 46, a Cambodian businessman, said the country normally charges foreign tourists $20 each for the entrance to Angkor Wat in Siem Reap, but Hun Sen had allowed the red shirts to enter free of charge from last Friday till today.
More than 50,000 Thais are expected to visit Angkor Wat over the three days, which meant Cambodia would lose about Bt30 million in entrance fees.
A Cambodian immigration official in the Cambodian city of Poipet, which is across the border from Sa Kaew, said yesterday that Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen had ordered immigration officials to provide special treatment to the red shirts from Thailand.
The red shirts went wild as soon as Thaksin arrived at the hotel City Angkor in Siem Reap, flocking to greet him, pulling his arms, embracing him and having their picture taken with him. Thaksin calmed them down, saying they have time as he would stay there several days.
Thaksin embraced Snoh Thienthong, a Pheu Thai Party leader, and his wife Uraiwan, plus Deputy Interior Minister Thanit Thiengthong.
Other political officer holders and former officials meeting with Thaksin included Public Health Minister Witthaya Buranasiri and his deputy Surawit Khonsomboon, former House speaker Yongyuth Tiyapairat, former transport minister Pongsak Raktapongpaisal, former education minister Srimuang Charoensiri, and Bhanapot Damapong, brother of Pojaman Damapong, Thaksin’s ex-wife.