Cambodia Charges Radio Station Owner in Riots
A radio station owner was charged Friday with inciting this week’s anti-Thai riots in Phnom Penh, and 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, the capital, were torched by Cambodian mobs Wednesday night, apparently after reports that a popular Thai actress had said Angkor Wat, the temple complex that is Cambodia’s national icon, belonged to Thailand. The actress has denied making the comments.
Hun Sen had described her 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, 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. He did not expect it to go so far, and it got totally out of control.”
Thailand’s Foreign Ministry has estimated the damage to Thai property in Phnom Penh at $23.41 million, although some analysts say the figure could be even higher.
Cambodia has promised to pay compensation. The government admitted that the sudden mob uprising had taken it by surprise, and it blamed extremists for fanning the flames.
As road sweepers cleared debris Friday, police chiefs said 151 suspected rioters had been rounded up and that a heavy military presence on the streets had restored order.
Prosecutors charged Mom Sonando, owner of Beehive FM radio, with three counts of broadcasting false information, inciting acts of racism and instigating people to commit crimes.
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