Phnom Penh, Jan. 31 (Reuters): The owner of a Cambodian radio station was charged today with inciting this week’s anti-Thai riots in Phnom Penh while a top Opposition leader said Prime Minister Hun Sen may be partly to blame for the chaos.
The Thai embassy and Thai-owned businesses in Phnom Penh were torched by Cambodian mobs on Wednesday night, apparently after reports that a popular Thai actress had said the Angkor Wat temple, Cambodia’s national icon, belonged to Thailand. The actress has denied making the comments.
Hun Sen had described the Thai small screen star as no more important than a blade of grass at Angkor Wat and banned her soap opera from Cambodian television.
His actions, possibly intended to boost his popularity before elections in July and to remind his wealthier neighbours not to underestimate his small nation, may have had unintended consequences.
“Hun Sen is like a child who plays with fire,” Opposition leader Sam Rainsy said. “He can set the house on fire or can himself get burnt. ”
Thailand’s foreign ministry has estimated the damage to Thai property in Phnom Penh — much of it belonging to the country’s biggest companies — at one billion baht ($23.41 million), although some analysts say the figure could be much higher.
Cambodia has promised to pay compensation. The government admitted the sudden mob uprising had taken it by surprise, and blamed extremists for fanning the flames.