Armored vehicles patrolled Cambodia's capital today after nationalist mobs attacked Thai businesses and torched the Thai Embassy to protest reported remarks by a Thai actress about the ownership of Cambodia's renowned Angkor Wat temple.
At the Thai Embassy compound, military policemen fired shots into the air to disperse rioters who had made bonfires of furniture, motorcycles and cars.
After a day of flag-burning and anti-Thai chanting that played on the inherent distrust many Cambodians feel toward their larger Southeast Asian neighbor, a crowd massed outside the embassy toward nightfall.
About 50 protesters climbed the embassy walls and threw rocks into the compound, smashing at least four windows, before the arson attack.
The Thai ambassador to Phnom Penh, speaking by telephone to a Thai television station, said he and other staff members climbed the wall to escape. Foreign Ministry officials in Bangkok said all 10 embassy staffers were safe.
The riots followed remarks attributed to the popular Thai actress Suwanna "Kob" Konying, reported in Cambodian newspapers, that the huge, 12th-century Angkor Wat, Cambodia's top cultural icon, belonged to Thailand. The actress has denied making the comments.
Angry crowds prowled the capital well into the night, setting fire to cars and attacking Thai-owned and other foreign businesses, including Cambodia Shinawatra, a telecommunications company set up by the Thai prime minister, Thaksin Shinawatra.
Another property targeted was the Royal Phnom Penh, a hotel said by locals to be Thai-owned. It was set on fire and looted.
Thai Airways suspended flights to Cambodia, and Thaksin said he was withdrawing Thailand's ambassador and sending military aircraft to Phnom Penh to evacuate an estimated 400 Thais in the city.
Thaksin expressed dismay at the damage to his nation's embassy and at one point offered to send troops to help Cambodian authorities restore order.
After decades of civil war, Cambodia has enjoyed several years of peace and stability. But with a general election scheduled for July, tensions are starting to simmer again.