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Gov’t condemns Thais over ‘moto theft’ killing

Cambodia has publicly condemned Thailand after another alleged incident of disproportionate violence committed by soldiers from the neighbouring country resulted in the death of a 21-year-old Cambodian on Friday.

Thai soldiers opened fire on Kampong Cham native Soeun Vorn due to suspicions that he was colluding in the burglary of a Honda motorbike less than 2 kilometres from the O’Smach border checkpoint in Oddar Meanchey, according to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Vorn was shot in the head, chest and left kidney, rights workers who saw the body said.

“The Royal Government of Cambodia strongly protests against such cruel acts conducted by the Thai military violating the most elementary humanitarian principles,” Cambodia’s letter to Thailand reads.

The letter goes on to note that Cambodia has requested “again and again” that Thai authorities refrain from shooting its citizens, and instead “use legal measure [sic] against perpetrators”.

Shootings of Cambodians on Thai soil aren’t uncommon, though most victims this year have been alleged illegal loggers. The Interior Ministry reported that 12 Cambodian nationals were shot and killed by the Thai military in a single day this March, while dozens more have been injured by Thai soldiers’ fire. By contrast, Thailand’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs last month claimed that no Cambodian loggers were shot between January and September this year.

“Thai armed soldiers always shoot Cambodian suspects if they cannot [easily] arrest them,” said Sek Samon, the Cambodia-Thai Border Relations officer in charge of information.

Friday’s theft attempt also involved several Thai nationals, but none of them were killed.

“The Thai military is demonstrating its superiority complex: they can devalue Cambodian life without any consequences. They are above reprimand,” said independent political analyst Chea Vannath.

“[The government] should take a stronger stance . . . There should be an investigation on an international level.”

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs declined to comment yesterday on whether Vorn’s shooting or Thailand’s use of force against Cambodian suspects would be discussed at scheduled meetings later this week between Prime Minister Hun Sen and General Prayuth Chan-ocha.

During the Thai Prime Minister’s two-day visit to Phnom Penh, the neighbouring countries are expected to sign three bilateral agreements relating to tourism, counter-trafficking efforts and the cross-border railway project.

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