Siem Reap police rescued a group of Thai tourists Sunday from an angry mob that had gathered because the tourists were throwing candy at a group of Angkor Wat beggars while laughing and snapping photos as the children retrieved the sweets.
Firing shots into the air to disperse the mob, police then escorted the 28 tourists to the Siem Reap immigration police headquarters around sunset, said Oum Heang, chief of immigration police.
A mob of about 100 people followed them, throwing rocks at their vehicles, he said. No one was injured, but the mob stayed outside the police station, demanding the tourists be released or jailed for insulting Khmer people.
The group, which had come by land, were escorted out of town around 2 am the following morning, Oum Heang said.
“The mob was angry with the Thais because they threw the sweets onto the ground for the kids and beggars there,” he said, “and then they laughed and took photographs of the people struggling to get the sweets.”
An ancient story taught to many Cambodians recalls a time in the 16th century when, unable to pass a fence of bamboo and brambles, Thai soldiers threw silver coins at the protected Khmers. As the Khmers searched for the money, they destroyed the fence, allowing the Thais to invade, said Chou Chandary, a history professor at the Royal Phnom Penh University.
Sunday’s incident, he said, was reminiscent of that. “Their manner is still the same as they did in previous centuries.”
Angered by reports of the incident in the Khmer-language press, student leaders threatened to protest the “ugly act.”
Sokun Melea, vice president of the Democratic Front of Khmer Students and Intellectuals, said her group would demand an apology from the Thai Embassy in Phnom Penh.
“We demand the Siam [Thai] government, which educates their people to look down on Khmer people, to apologize to us,” she said.
The group will ask the municipality today for permission to march. Thai Embassy officials could not be reached for comment Monday.