57 People Charged Over Anti-Thai Rioting

Phnom Penh Municipal Court charged 57 people over the weekend with a variety of charges stemming from anti-Thai riots last week that destroyed the Thai Embassy and several Thai-owned businesses, court officials said.

The suspects include independent radio station owner Mam Sonando and the editor of the Khmer-language newspaper Ras­mei Angkor (Light of Angkor), En Chan Sivatha. All were detained in Prey Sar prison.

Mam Sonando was charged with broadcasting false information, and inciting violence and discrimination for airing viewpoints of listeners who falsely claimed that the Cambodian Embassy in Thai­land had been attacked on the day of the riots in Phnom Penh.

The rumored attack in Bangkok was cited by many rioters as justification for the mob violence.

En Chan Sivatha was arrested for printing the initial story alleg­­ing that Thai actress Suva­nant Kongying had claimed Ang­kor Wat belonged to Thai­land. She has denied the allegations.

The remaining 55 suspects were charged with various charg­es including robbery, larceny, destruction of public property and taking part in an illegal demonstration, Sok Roeun, deputy municipal court prosecutor, said Sunday.

It was unlikely that any of those charged would be extradited to Thailand to stand trial, he said.

“We do not extradite them to Thai­land, because [the crimes] happened in Cambodia,” he said.

More than 150 suspects were rounded up after Wednesday’s orgy of destruction; however, due to lack of evidence, many have been released, police and court officials said.

Thailand will send officials to Cam­bodia this week to inspect the riot damage, The Associated Press reported Sunday.

Billed by the Thai Foreign Min­istry as the “first step to normalizing bilateral ties,” Thai officials will join Cambodian counterparts inspecting and assessing costs of the damage to Thai interests.

Foreign Minister Hor Nam­hong is also scheduled to arrive in Bangkok on Tuesday for a two-day visit to rebuild relations with Bang­kok, which are being des­cribed as at the lowest point ever.

Talks are expected to be centered around compensation for the destruction of the Thai Em­bas­sy and the setting up of a committee to assess the cost to Thai-owned businesses.

The Thai border remains closed to Cambodians, and Bangkok has downgraded Cambodia’s diplomatic status to the charge d’ affaires level, symbolically one of the strongest measures in international relations that one country can impose on another.

Of the 13 suspected rioters charged in court Sun­day, many  said they were not part of the mobs that overran Phnom Penh last week, but were mistakenly arrested by military police officers.

Vuth Meng Heng, 22, from Kompong Cham province, said he and four friends had just visited Phnom Penh to buy new clothes for the Chinese New Year celebration but were arrested when they went to watch the mob storm the TV3 station.

“The police arrested me and forced me into a military truck. Until now my parents don’t know. They are farmers in Kompong Cham province,” Vuth Meng Heng said.

Motorcycle taxi driver Chea Sam­both, 25, said he was arrested at the Cambodian Com­mer­cial Bank on Monivong Boulevard.

“I am a motodop, but now the court charges me with destroying public property,” Chea Samboth said.

A tearful Ang Srun, 42, scolded his son, Ang Veng, 18, at the municipal court on Sunday.

Ang Veng said he had tried to escape on a motorcycle, but failed.

“I can’t help you son,” said Ang Srun. “I told you not to go to see the demonstration. But you did not listen to me.”

Hem Phoury, 22, said the Mili­tary Police had released more than 70 other suspects who were arrested. Their parents and relatives were able to buy their freedom, he said.

“My parents do not know I was arrested by police. If they know and pay the money to the police. I will be free,” he said.

Opposition party leader Sam Rainsy said Sunday that the mass arrests of suspected rioters was a convenient means of shifting the blame from the government officials who incited the riots.


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