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Thai Embassy Burned by Angry Cambodians 

Issued: 30 January 2003

Cambodian military police opened fire to disperse a group of protesters who stormed into and set fire to the Thai Embassy in Phnom Penh Wednesday night.

About one thousand protesters gathered together in front of the Thai Embassy. The demonstration became more aggressive when a group of protesters stormed into the building and set the fire inside. All the 20 cars parked in the Embassy's compound were badly burned and damaged. Ten Thai officials at the embassy, including the ambassador, were said to escape unhurt by sneaking out through the backdoor and climbing over the fence  to the nearby Japanese Embassy.

The violence was quickly spread throughout Phnom Penh with Thai-owned businesses being targeted. Several Thai restaurants and cell phone company were under attack. Even the two famous hotels - Royal Phnom Penh and Juliana Hotel, owned by the Thai, were sacked heavily by the riots. Some rooms were torched and belongings of the in-house guests were stolen. Both of these hotels are currently closed until further notice. All guests were evacuated.

The violence comes after a Thai actress, Suwanan Kongying, allegedly said that Angkor Wat, Cambodia's top cultural icon, belonged to Thailand. She has denied making the comments.

The demonstration demanded a public apology from the popular actress while the Cambodian government called on the protesters to exercise restraint to prevent the further deterioration of the situation and diplomatic relation between the two neighboring countries.

On part of Thai Government, Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra announced on the television broadcast that the government would send an aircraft of the Royal Thai Air Force to receive Thai envoys, diplomatic staff, and Thai people (400 estimated) back home under the protection of a Thai commando group. Cambodian Ambassador to Thailand would also be called on, and would be sent back to Cambodia in a strong protest over the raid and destruction that Thai Embassy in Phnom Penh had to face from the violence. Simultaneously, the diplomatic relation would be temporarily downgraded from the ambassador level to the charge d'affaires level until the Cambodian Government could give the official explanation with appropriate actions to address the problem.

Consequently, flights from Bangkok to Phnom Penh of Thai Airways airlines were indefinitely suspended. Thai-owned businesses in Cambodia have to close at the moment. And, airing all Thai movies and soap operas are banned in every Cambodian television stations.

 

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