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Four alleged loggers shot by Thai soldiers

At least four people were injured, one seriously, after Thai soldiers shot them as they allegedly illegally logged the Thai side of the Preah Vihear border on Wednesday.

The injured men were part of a group of eight from Preah Vihear province’s Choam Ksan district, provincial police chief Sy Kiry told the Post yesterday.

“Three were slightly injured, one suffered a grievous back injury and the rest managed to escape uninjured,” Kiry said. Cambodian soldiers assisted in taking the four injured men to Preah Vihear’s provincial hospital, where the most seriously injured man underwent surgery, he added.

While border violence is less commonplace than a couple of years ago, Thai military personnel too often use a 'shoot first, ask questions later' approach when dealing with illegal loggers on their side of the border, said Eang Vuthy, director of rights group Equitable Cambodia.

Although the eight loggers were allegedly committing a crime when soldiers shot them, the Thai military should not play the role of judge, jury and executioner, Vuthy said.

“If they found that people are logging in Thai territory, they can arrest the people and bring them to the court,” Vuthy said yesterday. “I think the Cambodian government should take firm, immediate action, and work with the Thai government to stop [border shootings] immediately.”

Koy Kuong, spokesman for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, yesterday declined to comment, saying he had no information on the reported shooting. However, he added, Cambodian authorities have educated people about the dangers of crossing the Thai border and have made it clear that doing so is illegal.

Approximately six Cambodians have been killed by Thai soldiers while reportedly logging illegally across the border this year, Kiri said.

Rights group Adhoc has investigated five border shootings linked to alleged illegal logging this year, Lor Chann, Adhoc’s Preah Vihear provincial coordinator said. But more have likely happened and went unreported, he added.

“We only investigated the cases in which the victims’ families filed a complaint,” Chann said.

ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY SEAN TEEHAN

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