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Cambodian-Thai Relations Back to Normal Following Riots - 2003-04-30


The prime ministers of Thailand and Cambodia said Wednesday that ties between their two countries are back to normal following anti-Thai riots in Cambodia's capital last January.

Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra and Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen said it was time for the two countries to move beyond their recent dispute, and to focus on the future.

Mr. Thaksin said the two countries would cooperate more closely than before on economic strategy and development. The foreign ministry spokesman, Sihasak Phuangketkeow, said this might include regular joint cabinet meetings. "Both sides will have a joint cabinet meeting at the end of May, so most ministries and most ministers will be taking part," he said. "it will be the first between Thailand and Cambodia."

The first joint meeting will start in the morning at the northern Cambodian town of Siem Reap and end in the afternoon in the eastern Thai town of Ubon Ratchathani. Mr. Thaksin said that if it proves useful, such meetings may be scheduled on a regular basis.

Diplomatic relations between the two countries were suspended by Thailand in January, following anti-Thai riots in Phnom Penh that destroyed the Thai embassy and damaged several Thai-owned businesses.

The riots were sparked by rumors that a Thai actress had said Cambodia's national symbol of pride, the Ankor Wat temple complex, belonged to Thailand.

Cambodia later apologized for the violence and paid Thailand some $6 million in damages.

Cambodian leader Hun Sen said economic cooperation between the two neighbors was essential, and called fully restored relations the end to a "nightmare." "So far as relations between Cambodia and Thailand are concerned I can say that things are back at a good point," he said. "But for a short period of time, things were very difficult."

The two leaders were meeting in Bangkok the day after Thailand hosted an emergency summit meeting of East Asian nations. The summit was called to form a joint strategy to contain the outbreak of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome, and to find a response to the heavy economic impact the disease has had on the region.

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