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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Govt seeks answers in teenager’s burning

Govt seeks answers in teenager’s burning

THE Cambodian government has formally approached Thailand to demand an explanation for the death of a teenager allegedly shot and burned alive by Thai soldiers.

In a strongly worded letter sent Tuesday to the Royal Thai Embassy in Phnom Penh, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs called the death of Yon Rith, 16, an “act of cruelty” that breaks international law.

“The Royal Government of Cambodia considers these reported acts as a serious breach of internationally accepted humanitarian principle,
which should not be committed by any agent of a civilised state,” read the letter, according to a copy obtained Tuesday.

“Cambodia requests the authorities concerned in Thailand to take appropriate measures to prevent such atrocities from happening again,” it continued.

It is the first time the national government has officially weighed in on the death of the Oddar Meanchey province teenager, who was killed last week.

Provincial officials say Yon Rith and Mao Kleung, 18, were shot and “badly wounded” last Friday when they were allegedly caught logging illegally along the disputed Cambodia-Thailand border.

Mao Kleung escaped, but Oddar Meanchey officials claim Thai soldiers captured Yon Rith and burned him alive.

The boy’s father, Saing Yon, told the Post on Monday that he believed his son had been bound with rope to an ox cart before he was set alight.

Human rights activists Tuesday compared the Thai soldiers’ alleged actions to those of Nazi dictator Adolf Hitler.

“They burned this man alive, just as Adolf Hitler did during World War II,” said Ny Chakrya, head of the investigation section of human rights group Adhoc. “This is an act of hatred that will be condemned by the international community.” The organisation is now planning its own probe into the death, he said.

Am Sam Ath, technical supervisor for the rights group Licadho, called on the Cambodian government to launch a formal complaint with other neighbouring countries in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations.

“The government should complain to ASEAN members and take legal action to prevent this from happening again,” Am Sam Ath said.

On Monday, the victim’s father vowed revenge and said he had no doubts that his son had been deliberately burned to death by Thai troops. “I will remember this, and I want revenge on the Thai soldiers, but I won’t tell anyone what I will do to them,” he said.

The scandal follows the arrest of several Cambodians accused of illegal logging in Thailand last month.

The 12 men, currently being detained in a Thai prison, were due to be visited by relatives in Thailand today, said Touch Ra, deputy chief of the Cambodia-Thailand Relations Office at the Chom International Border Gate. A further 16 men arrested in July along the Oddar Meanchey border in similar circumstances are still awaiting trial in Thailand.

Neither the Thai Ministry of Foreign Affairs nor the Thai Embassy in Phnom Penh would comment on Tuesday.



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