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Cambodia Releases Most Convicts of Anti-Thai Riots - 2003-09-15


A Cambodian court has convicted 56 people for their involvement in anti-Thai riots that rocked the capital last January, but has released most of the suspects.

Phnom Penh Municipal Court Judge Tan Sinarong said the court acquitted two of the 58 suspects on all charges and reduced the charges against 54 others to theft from robbery. The court said that the time the 54 suspects had been imprisoned before the trial was enough and they were ordered released.

Two students were convicted of playing leading roles in the demonstrations and will remain in jail. During the riot on January 29, a few hundred youths burned and looted the Thai embassy and then attacked more than a dozen Thai-affiliated businesses, causing $54 million in damage.

Twenty-four-year-old law student Ken Sara was convicted of inciting the demonstrators to commit a crime, inciting racial hatred, holding an illegal demonstration and committing violence. He was sentenced to nine months in jail. A fellow law student, 19-year-old Thorn Veasna, was convicted of inciting racial hatred and sentenced to eight months for handing out anti-Thai leaflets.

Cambodia's King Norodom Sihanouk urged Prime Minister Hun Sen earlier this year to free the students, saying they were not the real instigators of the riots, which some have claimed were politically motivated.

Cambodia is still negotiating claims with several Thai companies that were damaged by the rioting. The Thai foreign minister said last week he will urge the Cambodian government to speed up the process, but Cambodia responded by accusing Thai companies of inflating claims and bogging down their resolution.

The riot started after apparently erroneous Cambodian media reports said a Thai actress had made insulting remarks about Cambodia. She denied the accusation.

The riot prompted the Thai government to recall its ambassador to Cambodia. It was months before relations between the neighboring countries improved.

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