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Charred entrance of the Thai Embassy in Phnom Penh, Cambodia - NR photo

The charred destruction of the Samart building - NR photo

Spectators view the burned remains of vehicles in the Royal Phnom Penh Hotel parking lot - NR photo

A section of the completely gutted out Royal Phnom Penh Hotel - NR photo



Cambodians Rebel Against Thailand



Comments of Thai TV Star Stir Anger in Cambodia. Actress, Suwanan "Kob" Kongying was reported as saying that she would never visit Cambodia until Angkor Wat was returned to Thailand. Some worry if the incident will hurt tourism.


Monday February 3, 2003 - Updated Tuesday February 4, 2003 - National Radio Text Service

Phnom Penh, Cambodia

As a result of a Thai actress making remarks about Cambodia, Khmer citizens responded by burning several Thai owed businesses last Wednesday evening. The fires were going on simultaneously.

The Cambodian Daily reported that the fire at the Thai Embassy started around 6 PM. The Samart mobile phone company blaze began around 7 PM. A resident that lives across from the Royal Phnom Penh Hotel said the fire was set around 8 PM. The fires continued to blaze well after midnight.

Actress, Suwanan "Kob" Kongying was reported as saying that she would never visit Cambodia until Angkor Wat was returned to Thailand.

The day the fires took place the Bangkok Post published an interview with the actress where she denied making the statement. It was reported that the remarks were taken from a TV drama Look Mai Klai that aired two years ago. The comments were published in a magazine last year. Later television reports said past episodes the actress did were viewed and they could not find her making the remarks.

Destruction of several other Thai owned business included Bangkok Airways, Juliana Hotel, TV 5 television station, Siam Cement, Modern Plastic, and cell phone company Shinawatra. Shinawatra is owned by Thailand's Primeminister Thaksin Shinawatra.

The Royal Phnom Penh Hotel and Samart were charred to ruins. Thai officials initially estimated the damage to Thai property is to be around US $23 million. Tuesday February 4, Channel News Asia reported the figure to be US $43 million.

Thai companies submitted their preliminary losses at 1.8 billion baht according to Tuesday's Bangkok Post. Of the 100 Thai owned businesses in Cambodia Samart suffered the greatest loss at 645 million baht. Tuesday the baht was valued @ 42.72 baht per US $ 1.

Cambodia Modern Plastic reported the second highest loss (300 million baht), Royal Phnom Penh Hotel (270 million baht), Shinawatra 61.8 million baht).

The Thai government sent aircraft to Cambodia to evacuate 700 Thai citizens the day after the fires. The Cambodian Daily newspaper reported over 150 people were arrested. Bangkok and Thai Airways canceled their flights to Cambodia for several days.

Unlike the riots in Los Angeles, California USA in the mid nineties that blazed on for days, this outburst was over in a few hours. The resentment of the said comments still lingers in the minds of many Khmers who feel that the Thais look and talk down to them. The Thais apparent lack of respect for Cambodians in part could have caused the flair-up.

The aftermath resulted in some Cambodians to question if the event would have an effect on tourism. If Cambodia has one thing they can be proud of to help rebuild their country it's Angkor Wat their jewel tourist attraction.

Many Cambodians talk about how Thailand took their land years ago. One Phnom Penh guesthouse owner said he didn't see any falloff in business immediately after the event. He pointed out low occupancy at his guesthouses in Siem Reap/Angkor Wat. He also noted that the Thai government wouldn't permit entry to their country by Cambodians. Thai flights to Cambodia were discontinued.

Cambodian politician Sam Rainsy, traveling on his French passport, was detained at Bangkok's Don Muang airport Saturday when he attempted to enter Thailand. The Bangkok Post reported that Rainsy intended to do a news conference to "clarify an allegation'' that he was behind Wednesday's riot. Thirty reporters were in attendance. Thai officials returned him to Cambodia via Singapore. He arrived late Sunday afternoon.

The question is who is the winner from this? What do the Cambodian employees of this burnt down business do now? The Cambodian Daily reported that Shinawatra employed 260 Cambodians and the Royal Phnom Penh Hotel 160.

© Copyright: National Radio. Any use of these materials, whole or in part, is prohibited unless authorized in writing by National Radio. Contact: nationalradio@yahoo.com All rights reserved.


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