Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Thailand still nervous about embassy security

Thailand still nervous about embassy security

Thailand still nervous about embassy security

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

being repaired.

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

and looted.

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

repair bill.

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

Thailand.

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.

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