Monks were among the throngs waiting for visa applications to be processed when the repaired Thai Embassy reopened. At peak periods the embassy deals with up to 500 applications per day.
The Thai Embassy in Phnom Penh was quietly reopened on February 9, a year after being
severely damaged in anti-Thai demonstrations.
The Cambodian Government provided temporary premises nearby while the embassy was
The reopening was one of the first major tasks for the new Thai Ambassador, Piyawat
Niyomrerks, who said he much appreciated the kindness of the Cambodian Government
in assisting with accommodation.
Niyomrerks is a career diplomat, and has worked for the Thai Ministry of Foreign
Affairs for 28 years. He served as Consul General in Los Angeles (available to more
than 200,000 Thai citizens and another 50,000 living between California and Alaska)
and was then transferred to Taipei, Taiwan (where over 130,000 Thais live).
Instead of the usual official ceremony, the Ambassador invited monks to bless the
embassy on Sunday February 8.
Anti-Thai sentiment erupted on January 29, 2003 when protestors, under the assumption
the Cambodian embassy in Bangkok had been attacked and in response to non-verified
defamatory statements by Thai actress Suwanan Kongying, set fire to the Thai embassy
in Phnom Penh. A dozen other Thai-owned hotels and businesses were also attacked
The then Thai ambassador Chatchawed Chartsuwan escaped over a back fence and onto
a riverboat after distress calls to Cambodian officials proved futile.
The event seriously damaged relations with Thailand, and many predicted a drop in
tourist numbers, during the somewhat ironically labeled, 'Visit Cambodia Year'. The
embassy sacking made global news and left Cambodia with an estimated $ 47 million
Niyomrerks said he did not know how much money the Cambodian government had spent
so far in rebuilding the embassy, apart from the $5 million stated in news reports.
The Ambassador still has concerns about the embassy's security. "The wall is
higher than before, but it's still not high enough for total security," he said.
He said he will ask the Cambodian government for approval to use Thai military forces
as guards,"not because we do not trust Cambodian forces, but if you look at
the embassies of other countries abroad you will see they bring their own security
people as well."
Currently more than ten security guards sent from the Ministry of Interior are guarding
the embassy 24 hours per day.
Kong Theoun, 32, Cambodian security guard said: "We cannot be sure whether there
will be a riot again or not. It's okay today but in the future who knows?"
Thai Amassador Piyawat Niyomrerks: quiet reopening of repaired embassy.
At holiday times the embassy is dealing with 400-500 visa applications daily to visit
Nguon Nary, 55, Cambodian, applying for a visitor visa, said she goes to Thailand
very frequently on business there and could only get one month visas.
She also said she regretted that the Cambodian government has to pay for rebuilding
the embassy because Cambodia was a poor country.
Niyomrerks said: "I plan to speak more to Cambodian people to create better
understanding between our countries. It's very difficult to handle people's feelings
about the attack on the embassy. It even disrupts household affairs."
He said rumours should be treated as rumours until the facts were available. He said
the communications media would play a crucial role in promoting better understanding
between Thai and Cambodian people.