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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Step by step: the road to a riot

Step by step: the road to a riot

January 18: Story appears in Rasmei Angkor newspaper stating that an interview

with Thai actress Suwanan Kongying, known as Morning Star, had proved she looked

down on Cambodia and its people. The article said that any Cambodian official wanting

her to perform in Cambodia would first have to return Angkor Wat to her. The Cambodian

government later acknowledges the article is entirely bogus and no such interview

took place. The editor later tells the Post that he based the story on what someone

had told him and had not checked its veracity.

January 27: Prime Minister Hun Sen, while opening a school for blind and deaf

children in Kampong Cham town, tells the public that he recently heard that people

were angered by Morning Star's comments. He said the people's reaction to her looking

down on them had loomed large. He says: "The price of Miss Morning Star is not

equal to some patch of the grass at Angkor Wat." At the end of his speech he

asks TV5 not to broadcast the soap opera she is appearing in that is being broadcast

in Cambodia. His comments were carried on the news that night, including his description

of her as 'Theft Star'.

January 27: First student protests: around 40 youths on motorbikes race around

the city throwing bricks and tearing up and burning posters of the actress.

January 28: Suwanan Kongying denies making any such statements.

January 29: Early morning: yet more protests outside the Thai Embassy. Later

in the day students return and eventually break in and loot the building then set

it on fire. Students say they are angered at a radio broadcast that stated the Cambodian

Embassy in Bangkok had been looted and 20 Cambodians killed and set on fire. That

story too is not true. Keen observers wonder just who is behind the stories, and

the Thais are convinced the entire episode is a setup. The protesters then traverse

the city trashing and burning at least a dozen Thai businesses. The army is called

out and sporadic shooting lasts through the night.

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