Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Whodunnit and why? The Post scores the theories

Whodunnit and why? The Post scores the theories

Whodunnit and why? The Post scores the theories

It is hardly surprising that an event of the magnitude of the sacking of the Thai

Embassy and Thai businesses gets the conspiracy theorists talking. Phnom Penh is

a city of rumors, particularly when it comes to politics, and this event has proved

no different.

The rumor mill has churned out any number of theories, a few of which the Post collated

and presented to our anonymous - but normally reliable - Western diplomat (WD) to

assess. Here, in no particular order, are the results.

1. The opposition

The theory that opposition leader Sam Rainsy was behind the riot has been promoted

most openly by royalist leader Prince Norodom Ranariddh. Rainsy promptly replied

that he would sue Ranariddh for libel. Defense minister Tea Banh was also reported

in the Thai press as accusing Rainsy, something the minister subsequently denied.

WD says: "The SRP is taking tactical advantage after the fact, as one

would expect. But I would be very surprised if they could have orchestrated this

on their own. We haven't seen them with that kind of capability before."
WD credibility ranking: 2/10.

2. The Vietnamese government

In some people's eyes, the natural choice. Who would gain most from ruining Thai

businesses, proponents of the theory asked? Umm, not the Vietnamese, says our man

in the comfy chair.

WD says: "There is a lot of anti-Vietnamese sentiment here, but the Vietnamese

are more unhappy with the growing Chinese influence in Cambodia than that of the

Thais."
WD credibility ranking: 1/10.

3. The Chinese government
What could the Chinese government possibly have to gain from causing mayhem in

the capital? One far-flung theory suggests that China was getting a little twitchy

about ASEAN leaders cosying up together and creating a political and trade area to

rival their own. So Chinese 'infiltrators' whipped up a frenzy in an attempt to drive

a wedge between the two ASEAN members. A theory as ludicrous as it sounds, says our

diplomat.

WD says: "Definitely not."
WD credibility ranking: 0/10.

4. The Thai government
It is not just the US that faces accusations of causing conflict over that precious

natural resource - oil.

4a. With the Cambodian and Thai governments currently locked in discussions over

a disputed oil-rich area in the Gulf of Thailand, there have been thoughts that the

Thai government could use the riots as a bargaining chip for a greater share of the

goods.

4b. According to the internet-based Khmer Intelligence - the reliability of whose

sourcing is not always 100 percent - two Thai oil companies, both with high-level

support in the Cambodian government, were vying for exploration rights in the disputed

area in the Gulf of Thailand. When one of the companies looked set to clinch the

deal, rumor has it the other whispered in the ear of its Cambodian cohorts who then

instigated the riots to stall the deal.

Our man is not impressed by either theory.

WD says: "Pretty improbable."
WD credibility ranking: 1/10.

5. A rival cosmetics company in Thailand
The Thai actress who was accused of wanting Angkor Wat was apparently the victim

of a smear. Why? Well, say some, the answer is that she was due in Cambodia in early

February to promote a new cosmetics line. What better way to turn Cambodians off

that product, than for a rival company to claim she said terrible things about such

a quintessential Cambodian symbol.

WD says: "It is not impossible that a Thai company could start a smear

like that, but the theory just doesn't explain the magnitude of what happened."
WD credibility ranking: 0/10.

6. Shinawatra versus MobiTel
Reported in the Bangkok Post, it looks like an attempt to curry favor with Thai

PM Thaksin Shinawatra, whose telecoms HQ was trashed. The theory went along the lines

that MobiTel, with its alleged Hun Sen connections as per the theory, was so worried

about Shinawatra, that it instigated the protests to get rid of its Thai competitor.

WD says: "About as likely as the cosmetics theory."
WD credibility ranking: 0/10.

7. Elements within the CPP
Ahh, the intrigue. Popular among some hacks and observers, but frankly, says

our diplomat, there is no direct evidence to back it up. The theory is this: the

ruling party's central committee has not yet picked its prime ministerial candidate,

and has delayed its party congress for months.

Rumors swishing around are that some senior members want Prime Minister Hun Sen to

move over and give someone else a chance. The riot weakens the PM and makes his position

more vulnerable. The theory is not new, and has not gone away, although our watcher

is not convinced.

WD says: "Dismissing the others leaves this. But it also leaves one

other: the highest probability is that shit happens."
WD credibility ranking: 3/10.

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