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Friendly football fixture unites nations

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Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen (right) goes to tackle former Thai prime minister Somchai Wongsawat in front of current Thai MP Jatuporn Prompan during their friendly match at Olympic Stadium on Saturday.

The 90-minute friendly football match between politicians and high ranking officials of Cambodia and Thailand went off without a hitch on Saturday at Olympic Stadium, as thousands of home and visiting fans celebrated the new-found friendship between the governments.

The bloody border disputes that dominated the headlines in April of this year seemed a distant memory as Cambodian Prime Minster Hun Sen led his red-shirted side to a 10-7 victory over the blue team captained by former Thailand Prime Minister Somchai Wongsawat.

Both sides were comprised of members of either delegation, helping to play down any notions of competitiveness.

The 59-year-old Hun Sen scored four goals for the Reds, a tally matched by President of the Cambodian National Assembly Heng Samrin, 77, for the Blues.

During an address to the packed stands in the build up to kickoff, Hun Sen had called the event a “showpiece of the good relationship between the two neighbouring countries”, adding that that game would see a change from using weapons to using football.

Cambodian soccer fan Sok Sambath, 30, said he was “very excited to see this event live”, adding that he was surprised to see a sizeable turnout of Thai fans.

Thailand national Pornsatid Ponpuak, a 38-year-old cook from Bangkok who claimed to have made the trip especially for the match at her own expense, said she thought “most Thai people love the new government policy that can make a good relationship with a neighbour like Cambodia”.

Sao Sokha, president of the Football Federation of Cambodia and wearer of the number 7 shirt for the Reds, said the match was a good example of the ongoing process which sees both Kingdoms enjoy smooth relations once again. He noted, however, that the benevolence was not necessarily long-term and would rely on the solidarity of citizens as well.

TRANSLATED BY PANN RETHEA

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