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Thai security personnel patrol a section of forest near the Cambodian border last year
Thai security personnel patrol a section of forest near the Cambodian border last year in an effort to reduce illegal logging in the area. EIA

Joint patrols on agenda

In response to a spate of Cambodian illegal loggers being shot dead by Thai soldiers near the border, the government on Tuesday urged a Thai delegation to consider border patrols composed of representatives from the two countries, the foreign minister said.

“I would like to request [acting Foreign Minister] Sihasak Phuangketkeow to tell Thai authorities that when they see [Cambodians] logging, to arrest them and take legal action, but please do not shoot them,” Hor Namhong said on Tuesday, following the first visit of a Thai delegation to Phnom Penh since May’s military coup.

A meeting between Secretary of State Long Visalo and an unnamed “Thai counterpart” also took place last month, Namhong told reporters, when discussions on appointing a point-person on either side of the border to facilitate joint border patrols initially began.

For Thailand’s part, Sihasak told reporters that “Thai authorities have confirmed at the top-most level that it will work to avoid violence or more damage at the borders”.

According to the Ministry of Interior, 69 Cambodians were shot while illegally crossing the Thai border last year. Vanna was unable to provide numbers on the number of Cambodian nationals shot this year, but officials in March said that Thai soldiers had shot dead 12 loggers in a single day.

Pich Vanna, director of the Cambodian-Thai Border Relations Office, said yesterday that a meeting between Cambodian and Thai “regional military” was slated to take place sometime in the middle of this month.

“The situation at the Thai-Cambodia border has been quiet in recent months,” Vanna said.

Political analyst Kem Ley said that negotiations should not have taken place because the Thai junta was “illegitimate”.

“Migrant workers and even illegal loggers must be protected in and outside Cambodia, but negotiations should cease with this illegal Thai government . . . if Cambodia wants to partner with this Thai government, they should demand an election take place first,” he said.

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