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Cambodia PM Sends Apology to Thai Leader - 2003-02-04

A senior Cambodian official has apologized to the Thai government for last week's anti-Thai riots in Cambodia and promised to make amends.

Hor Namhong, Cambodia's foreign minister, delivered a letter of apology Tuesday from Cambodia's prime minister, Hun Sen, promising full reparations for the destruction of Thailand's embassy in Phnom Penh last week. The letter was delivered to Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra in Bangkok.

Bangkok downgraded diplomatic relations with Cambodia after the incident, suspended all economic aid, and banned Cambodians from visiting the country. The rioters burned the Thai embassy and destroyed several Thai-owned businesses in the Cambodian capital.

Thailand said the cost of damage from the riots amounted to more than $42 million, almost double its original estimate.

Thailand's Foreign Ministry spokesman, Sihasak Phuangketkeow, said the letter from the Cambodian leader was a step in the right direction.

"Basically the Cambodian side said that they very much regretted the incident and expressed their apology and they were ready to assume full responsibility for what happened and they acknowledge the fact that it was misjudgment on their part, that the situation was allowed to get out of hand," he said.

The riots followed reports in the local Cambodian media that a popular Thai actress had said Cambodia's famed Ankor Wat temple, an important national symbol, belonged to Thailand. The actress has denied she had said this, and no evidence has been found to support the rumors.

The riots and their aftermath brought relations between the two neighboring countries to their lowest point in modern times. After receiving the apology, Mr. Thaksin said it was important for the countries get their relationship back on track.

Mr. Sihasak, the Thai spokesman, said diplomatic relations would gradually be restored, but Cambodia had to deliver on its promises first.