PHNOM PENH - The death of former Cambodian King Norodom Sihanouk has sparked an upswelling of emotion here in Phnom Penh—and a hapless Thai reporter who accidentally appeared to have trod upon an image of the deceased king has ignited something of an international disagreement.
While reporting upon the death of the King in Phnom Penh on Wednesday, well-known reporter Thai reporter Thapanee Eadsricha was videotaped appearing to stand upon an image of the deceased King.
Standing upon the image of royalty is considered a severe insult in both Cambodia and Thailand, and many Cambodians immediately protested the footage.
Swiftly moving into damage control mode, Thapanee and her Channel 3 employers said that she had accidentally placed reference materials containing an image of the King on the ground so she could deliver her report, says the Bangkok Post, and she was not actually standing upon the image—it was an illusion created by the angle of the video camera.
Thapanee publicly prostrated herself before an image of the King in Cambodia at the Cambodian Embassy in Bangkok the next day, and apologized profusely for the incident. (Although she did receive more flak for failing to remove her shoes while performing the ritualistic apology).
Read more from GlobalPost: Cambodians gather to mourn King Sihanouk
The two nations leadership agreed to bury the hatchet, and both worked to convince their citizens to calm themselves as well. Thailand told its citizens not to "like" images of Thapanee standing upon the Sihanouk image, says the Bangkok Post, going so far as to warn Facebook users that they could be violating the nations' strict computer crimes laws.
Meanwhile, Cambodia's Office of the Prime Minister told its citizens to avoid being influenced by nationalists who wish to use the photo gaffe to flame the flames of disagreement between the two nations, who are currently enjoying rather uncharacteristically amicable relations.
These relaxed relations are a marked improvement from February 2011, when the two Southeast Asian nations exchanged shots at each other over the ancient border temple of Preah Vihear, which each country claims as its own.
In 2003, a Thai actress's alleged comments stating that Cambodia's iconic Angkor Wat temple complex rightfully belong to Thailand prompted Cambodians to torch the Thai Embassy in Phnom Penh—a trauma neither country wishes to revisit.
The election of Thai President Yingluck Shinawatra, whose brother, former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra is friendly with Cambodian President Hun Sen, appears to have smoothed relations over considerably, as opposed to the tenser relations the Cambodian leader had with her immediate predecessor, Abhisit Vejjajiva.
The two nations even staged a football game in Phnom Penh in 2011, contested between Shinawatra-supporting Red Shirts, Thai lawmakers, and representatives of the Cambodian government—including Hun Sen, who reportedly scored five goals.