Cambodian authorities yesterday reported that Thailand continues to conduct a one-sided investigation into the remains of two men who officials allege may have been undocumented Cambodians burned alive by soldiers.
Cambodia’s Foreign Affairs Ministry claimed the two sides have been cooperating “closely”, but investigators nearer the border scene report being obstructed by uncooperative Thai counterparts.
“We have not been allowed to get into the [incident] site, so we submitted a letter requesting explanation . . . they said that the bodies were sent to Bangkok and told us just to wait for the results,” said Pech Vanna, director of the Cambodian-Thai Border Relation’s office.
Cambodian officials said they have heard “rumours” that the charred bodies were undocumented Cambodians burned alive, but with little information and no access to the supposed crime scene, they can do nothing but speculate.
“We will have to wait for the result of the biopsies, and if they are Cambodian, we will follow up to see what the real causes behind it are,” said Chim Chamnan, chief of the border relations office in Battambang province.
On Sunday, Anh Kamal, deputy military commander in Battambang’s Sampov Loun district, told the Post that Thai soldiers admitted to shooting at four Cambodians caught attempting to smuggle a motorcycle across the border.
Two of the men were allegedly caught and then set on fire.
Yesterday, an anonymous official claiming to be a Thai army source refuted the soldiers’ involvement and said the two countries had already discussed the issue.
But on the Cambodian side, the discussions involved more of a muddying series of backtracks than conclusive agreement.
“Our officials said they received information from the Thai side that they saw two people trying to import motor bikes … so I asked the Thai side to clarify this, but then they said they have no such information,” said Vanna.
Thailand has summarily denied previous incidents of alleged military violence against Cambodian civilians prior to offering apologies.
During his first diplomatic visit to Phnom Penh in December, coup-leader and now Thai Prime Minister General Prayuth Chan-ocha swore his military didn’t shoot Cambodian civilians.
Just a few days later, following a meeting with his counterpart in Phnom Penh, the Thai minister of defence publicly apologised to Cambodia for fatally shooting an unarmed, 55-year-old food forager.
“Many shootings have happened, but no perpetrator has been arrested and not one of the shooters has been brought to account for the atrocities,” said Nay Vanda, deputy head of rights group Adhoc’s human rights monitoring section.
In 2009, Thailand also initially denied shooting at and burning alive a 16-year-old Cambodian boy despite more than 10 eyewitness accounts. Though Thailand later acknowledged the boy was killed and burned, there was no compensation for the family and Adhoc said the investigation into the killers was abruptly called off.
“Filing a complaint to Thai provincial authorities is useless. Filing notices to the Thai government has not helped. Even Thai soldiers’ apologies mean nothing. The Cambodian government should file a complaint to the International Criminal Court for an investigation. I don’t see any other way the killings will end,” Vanda said.
ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY BANGKOK POST