Cambodia’s government has demanded Thailand investigate the killing of a Cambodian women shot in the head by Thai soldiers after straying across the border in search of food.
In a fiercely worded letter sent to the Thai Embassy in Cambodia, the Kingdom’s Foreign Affairs Ministry condemned the shooting and called for Thailand’s government to stop its soldiers from killing Khmer citizens in the border region.
“The Royal Government of Cambodia strongly protests against the barbarian acts committed by the Thai soldier(s) and requests the Thai authorities to conduct an investigation into the case and bring murder[ers] to justice,” the letter reads.
Phorn Chem, 55, from O’Smach commune in Oddar Meanchey’s Samrong town, was killed December 9 after she and two of her daughters crossed the border while foraging for food.
The ministry’s letter, delivered Wednesday, said that Chem was unaware she had crossed into Thailand when she went looking for mushrooms and cassava.
According to local police, Chem was initially buried by Thai soldiers but her corpse was later dug up and returned to her family.
Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen has recently attempted to improve relations with the Thai military.
In October, while receiving coup leader and Thai Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha on his maiden visit to the Kingdom, Hun Sen asked that the Thai military arrest people that stray over the border instead of shooting them.
However, the tone of the recent letter marks a shift away from the goodwill on display during the leaders’ talks.
“The Royal Government of Cambodia would like to request again and again the Thai authorities to stop these atrocious acts against innocent Cambodian people,” it reads.
Fatal and non-fatal shootings by soldiers on the Thai side of the border are frequent, although the countries disagree on the figures.
In September, Thai authorities reported no loggers – who are often the ones injured or killed – were killed between January 1 and September 1.
However, Cambodia’s Ministry of Interior reported a dozen were killed in a single day in March.
Although welcoming the reaction, Ny Chakrya, head of the human rights monitoring section of NGO Adhoc, said he didn’t expect Thai authorities would listen, adding that the government should file a complaint to an international court.
Ou Virak, chairman of the Cambodian Center for Human Rights, agreed, suggesting the matter be taken to the UN’s special rapporteur for extrajudicial killings.
“The Thai military has behaved badly for a long, long time. They’re getting away with crimes, they get away with murder. Many, many people have become victims, this is not the first incident and never once has there been accountability.”