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Explosive on border to stop illegal loggers

A Cambodian military official has alleged that Thai soldiers have been planting non-lethal improvised explosive devices at the Sra Kaew border adjacent to Battambang province to stop illegal loggers entering their country, a claim Thailand has denied.

Pan Rothmony, a border guard in Sampov Loun district’s Santepheap commune said yesterday that several of the devices, which did not wound victims but left them with strange spots on their bodies from an apparent chemical reaction, had detonated in the past two months.

“So I patrolled at the place where I heard that Cambodians had escaped arrest by Thai soldiers and encountered the fact of mines being spread to deter Cambodians from illegally entering to cut timber at night,” he said.

Thai soldiers who had been planting the IEDs after about 6pm and setting them to trip wires at shin, waist and chest height told him the explosives were intended to help identify illegal loggers, Rothmony said.

“They shouldn’t have used such an unlawful preventive method at all, even though it doesn’t cause injury,” he said.

Colonel Birek Bongkarn, military attache to the Thai Embassy in Phnom Penh, denied that Thai troops had been planting such devices.

“Thai soldiers have no policy for that, because it’s not useful to do so,” adding there would be little point in mining the area as it had no valuable timber.

He said he believed those making the allegation were “imagining something”.

But 24-year-old Cambodian Lert Chab said one of the devices had exploded in front of him, releasing a huge cloud of black smoke into the sky, leaving him dizzy, after he illegally entered Thailand to log timber.

“I, at first, was very afraid. When I touched my hands and legs I noticed only spots. I stepped on the mine as if it were a forest vine – then the mine exploded,” he said.

Cambodian authorities have accused Thai armed forces of shooting dead 38 of their civilians attempting to cross the border to illegally log in the first six months of this year alone.

To contact the reporter on this story: May Titthara at titthara.may@phnompenhpost.com
With assistance from: David Boyle

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