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Thailand official weighs response to mob attacks

Saturday, February 1, 2003

BANGKOK, Thailand -- The foreign minister of Thailand on Friday welcomed Cambodia's apology and offer of compensation for mob violence against its embassy and Thai-owned businesses but stopped short of restoring full diplomatic relations.

Thailand downgraded diplomatic relations and cut economic ties with its smaller neighbor after mob violence against its embassy and citizens in Phnom Penh earlier this week.

Before relations could be restored, the Thai government and public would have to satisfied with Cambodia's apology and compensation for the damage, Foreign Minister Surakiart Sathirathai said.

The attacks in Phnom Penh were set off by media reports that a Thai actress said Cambodia's famed Angkor Wat temple, a national symbol, was illegally annexed and should be part of Thailand. The remarks later turned out to have been fabricated by Cambodian newspaper.

Mobs in Cambodia ransacked Thailand's Embassy, burning a portion of the complex and destroying businesses in the capital.

Thailand evacuated about 700 of its citizens, expelled Cambodia's ambassador in Bangkok, ordered a suspension of business and cultural activities and downgraded diplomatic ties to the charge d'affaires level.

Compensation offered

Cambodia then apologized and promised to pay compensation "quickly and unconditionally" for all damage done to the embassy, its assets and personnel.

Referring to the Cambodian offer, Surakiart said he would "have to consult with the prime minister and the Thai people on whether these remedial measures would be sufficient," but welcomed the prompt response as a positive step.

Cambodia on Friday moved to punish alleged instigators of the violence, charging the owner of the nation's only independent radio station with inciting the mobs and arresting 147 people.

Mam Sonando of Beehive radio FM 105 was accused of using his radio station to broadcast false reports of attacks in Thailand against Cambodians and of spreading hatred against Thais, Phnom Penh Municipal Court prosecutor Yet Chakriya said.

His wife denied that the station, which frequently criticizes government policies, had broadcast such reports, although she said a caller to a phone-in show apparently mentioned rumors about the Cambodian Embassy in Bangkok being attacked.

No action was taken against newspapers and other media that repeated the rumor of the alleged slur, which aggravated Cambodia's long-standing distrust of its larger neighbor. Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen also delivered a tirade against the actress.


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