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Ministry slams Thai army over shootings

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs has condemned the Thai military for two separate shooting incidents at the border that left two Cambodians dead and one injured within a 48-hour period.

The ministry stated that it “strongly protests” the killing of two suspected illegal loggers by Thai soldiers on September 28. It also said that a gunfire exchange that injured one Cambodian and one Thai soldier the next day “gravely desecrates the Cambodian territory”.

The violence has led to renewed tensions between Thailand and Cambodia over its often-bloodied border.

“This is a very tense moment for both [Cambodia and Thailand],” said Pou Sovachana, research fellow at the Cambodia Institute for Cooperation and Peace.

The two countries have made several diplomatic overtures to each other since a military junta took over Thailand in May. Tensions, however, simmer below the surface as Cambodians suspected of sneaking into Thailand to log rosewood continue to be killed with impunity.

“There are serious suspicions held by many on both sides of the border that Thai security forces shoot first and ask questions later, but since there is no credible investigation to find out more, Thailand misses an opportunity to clear its name,” Human Rights Watch’s Asia director Phil Robertson said.

Calls to the Thai Foreign Ministry and the Embassy of Thailand in Phnom Penh went unanswered.

Thailand’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs has claimed that no Cambodian loggers were shot between January 1 and September 2 of this year, despite a report from the Cambodian Ministry of Interior that says 12 were killed in a single day this March and 69 killed in 2013.

Ou Virak, chairman of the Cambodian Center for Human Rights, added that the Kingdom was itself far from blameless, because it pays scant attention to its poorest and most vulnerable – those most likely to join risky forays into Thailand to log luxury woods.

“There’s never enough attention paid to Cambodian people – unless there’s money involved.”

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