Gov’t Pays $6 Million to Thailand for Riots

Cambodia transferred almost $6 million in compensation to the Thai government Monday, the first of what could be several multimillion-dollar payments for the Jan 29 anti-Thai riots, officials said.

The payment will go some way in patching up the strained relations between Phnom Penh and Bangkok and sets the groundwork for reopening the Thai-Cambodian border, officials said.

“We already sent the money through the bank…. They got it,” said Prak Sokhonn, senior adviser to Prime Minister Hun Sen and dep­uty chair of the commission on normalizing bilateral relations with Thailand.

“We [keep] our word. Cambo­dia is a member of the international [community]. For Cambo­dia’s reputation and dignity, we do this,” Prak Sokhonn said.

“I’m sure the normalization between Cambodia and Thailand will come soon,” he added.

Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra said earlier this month that normalization of relations—including reopening Thai­land’s border with Cambodia, which has been shut to Thai na­tionals since the riots—de­pended on the compensation payment from Phnom Penh.

Agence France-Presse reported Sunday Thai Foreign Minister Surakiart Sathirathai will hold talks with Cambodian Minister of Cabinet Sok An in Aranyaprathet, Thailand, on Friday.

The talks, to be held across the border from Poipet, will focus on solving mu­tual problems such as closure of border checkpoints, which Cam­bodian villagers and opposition party leaders have said is causing hardship for impoverished Cam­bo­dians. Thousands of villagers living on the frontier depend on cross-border trade, em­ployment and food provisions from Thai­land.

“We will talk about how to rehabilitate relations between our two countries,” said Surakiart Sathirathai, according to AFP.

Compensation estimated at just under $50 million for damage to Thai businesses will be a far more protracted process, officials say.

The estimate is likely to be challenged by Cambodian officials, who have hinted that the costs to Thai businesses may have been exaggerated upward.

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