Media

Who Am I?

Suvanant Kongying

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I'm Suvanant Kongying, a rising star in Thai television and films. (Vote for me as your favorite Thai star!) This week, I'm not sure whether I should be giving out my name as "Suvanant" or my alias "Kob," as I'm a central figure in the rioting in Cambodia that has apparently left one Thai national dead and destroyed relations between Cambodia and Thailand.

Angry mobs in Phnom Penh ransacked and burned Thailand's embassy on Wednesday, then attacked Thai restaurants, hotels, and other businesses, including a mobile phone company owned by the family of Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra. At least 700 Thai nationals have been airlifted out of the country, and Thaksin has closed the border between the two countries and downgraded diplomatic ties. As for me, I've gone into hiding.

How could I, a 101-pound slip of a woman play such a crucial role in this mess? The riots began when Cambodian media reported comments from me to the effect that the great Khmer temple at Angkor Wat—Cambodia's most treasured national monument—should belong to Thailand. These reports did more than just inflame Cambodians' sense of being put upon by their larger neighbors Thailand and Vietnam. They stirred up a cauldron of historical and cultural resentment Cambodians feel toward Thais, a grudge that dates back to Thailand's 15th century conquest of the Khmer empire. Some Thai historians make spurious claims that Thailand always owned the temple. Cambodians also resent resent such perceived culture lifts as Thai appropriation of Cambodia's traditional dances and marketing of them as tourist attractions—a Southeast Asian version of the dispute over who invented the falafel.

Now that things are cooling down a bit, I can give you the punch line: I never said anything about the temple or made any comments about Cambodia. The statements attributed to me were all a hoax, which I guess makes me a combination of Mariah Carey and Miss World. I hope that Cambodians will come to realize this, or at least that the "I'm so cute" pose I'm giving here will prove irresistable enough to promote better relations between our two countries.