A former RCAF soldier accused of leading a group of Cambodians across the Thai border to log luxury wood – an incident that left two dead – is awaiting trial in Oddar Meanchey province, officials said yesterday.
Ngoun Thyrith, district military police chief for the Anlong Veng district, told the Post that suspect Tum Khoy, 31, has been charged with unlawful removal of lumber for cross-border transfer in the wake of the May 13 incident.
“We arrested him on Friday, and we sent him to the court for charges on Saturday,” Ngoun Tyrith said.
“I received a complaint from a victim’s family, who [asked] us to accuse the suspect of taking their son to cut luxury wood in Thailand, where he was shot dead,” he added.
Ngoun Thyrith said his office had never caught military personnel in the act of smuggling illegal loggers across the Thai border, but that their status as soldiers would not protect them.
Tum Khoy had been discharged from the military five months prior for deserting his unit.
“We have never got soldier officials bringing villagers across the border to Thailand so far, but I will arrest and punish them as civilians if I know they do that,” he said.
Srey Naren, a provincial coordinator for the rights group Adhoc, said that the organisation is familiar with cases of RCAF officials bringing villagers across the border to Thailand, but that the families of victims rarely complain as they either fear for their safety or live in other provinces, such as Kampong Speu and Kampong Cham.
“It is difficult to judge why the RCAF officials were not arrested or charged when they were found bringing the villagers across the border,” said Srey Naren. “It might be because the soldiers were needed to protect the border.”
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