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Thailand Denies Entry to Cambodian Opposition Leader - 2003-02-01


Cambodian opposition leader Sam Rainsy was denied entry into Thailand as he arrived at Bangkok's International airport. The Thai government has banned all Cambodians from entering the country in response to the anti-Thai riots this week in the Cambodian capital, Phnom Penh.

Thai government spokesman Sita Divari denies reports Sam Rainsy was arrested or detained. He said the Cambodian opposition leader, who arrived in the Thai capital with his wife aboard a flight from Singapore on Saturday, was sent back to Singapore.

Thailand's airlines suspended all flights to Cambodia following Wednesday's riots, when mobs burned down the Thai embassy and ransacked several Thai businesses. The riots followed rumors reported in the Cambodian news media that a popular Thai actress said Cambodia's famed Angkor Wat temples belonged to Thailand. The actress has denied making the comments.

The riots prompted the Thai government to downgrade diplomatic relations with Cambodia, cut economic cooperation and bar all Cambodians from entering the country.

Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen has apologized for the damage and promised to pay reparations and prosecute the culprits. In his weekly radio address Saturday, Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinwatra had harsh words for Mr. Hun Sen. He said the Cambodian prime minister was too slow to respond to the riots and failed to protect the Thai embassy even after repeated requests. Mr. Thaksin said he believed the riots were a result of Cambodian politicians trying to stir up nationalistic fervor ahead of the country's national elections in July.

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