Cambodia's social media network was abuzz yesterday with a photo of Thapanee Eadsrichai, a well-known reporter from Channel 3, appearing as if she was standing on newspaper photos of the late King Sihanouk spread on the ground.
The photo, carrying the caption "Thai TV3" and "Our King", attracted several hundred critical comments from from both Cambodians and Thais.
Calling an urgent briefing yesterday, Paskorn Siriyaphan, an outgoing head of the East Asian Affairs Department, expressed regret over the incident to Phnom Penh. He said Thais shared the feeling of loss as Cambodians mourn the death of their former king. "We did not want [the incident] to happen. We love and respect the Cambodian monarchy the same way as we adore and revere our own institution of monarchy," said Mr Paskorn, who will soon take over the Thai ambassadorship to Indonesia.
In a statement issued after her return to Thailand from Phnom Penh, Ms Thapanee insisted she did not step on the photo as alleged in the social media posting. The reporter said that before filing a report on the late king, she put her belongings on the ground including her mobile phones, notebooks and local newspapers featuring news and a photo of former king Sihanouk.
She insisted she placed all the items far from herself, but the photo that appeared on Facebook might have been shot from an angle that made it look like the items were laid on the ground close to her.
She apologised nonetheless and said she had no intention to show disrespect to the late Cambodian king. Channel 3 management also expressed their sincere apologies to Cambodia's royal family. They said they hoped that the issue would not affect bilateral relations.
Mr Paskorn said he believed Channel 3 would send the statement to the Cambodian embassy in Bangkok or directly to Phnom Penh.
Mr Paskorn said the Thai ambassador to Phnom Penh, Sompong Sanguanban, went to explain the situation to vice-minister for foreign affairs Ung Sean.
Mr Paskorn was in Phnom Penh during the 2003 torching of the Thai embassy sparked by comments falsely attributed to a Thai actress about the ownership of Angkor Wat in Cambodia.
Mr Paskorn said he believed the explanation had been conveyed to the deputy prime minister and foreign minister Hor Namhong.