Four Cambodians allegedly lugging timber across the country’s northwestern border have been shot dead by Thai soldiers in just eight days.
Reach Raim, 37, and 17-year-old Dy Yem had been gunned down last Wednesday in the forests of Thailand’s Sisaket province after allegedly trying to smuggle timber into Cambodia, Tuoch Ra, chief of the Cambodian-Thai border communications team at Chaom Sagnam International Border Crossing, said yesterday.
Five days earlier, two Cambodian soldiers accused of smuggling illegally logged timber were shot dead by Thai soldiers about five kilometres inside Thailand’s Surin province.
“We are not sure whether they were loggers or not, because they are dead already. They could have been framed,” Ra said.
“The Thais claimed they had shot them just to protect themselves, because the Khmers had weapons,” he said, adding that the Thai soldiers had claimed the victims were brandishing arms.
“Our people know about the [risks of] being shot, but they still go. Some of them say they are led to log at the border by another person.”
A report issued by the Banteay Meanchey Cambodia-Thai border relations office yesterday morning shows a spike in the number of killings for the first six months of this year compared to last year.
It reveals that from January to July this year, Thai police or soldiers shot 38 Cambodians allegedly logging in the northwest, injured 10 and imprisoned another 194.
Human-rights groups said there had been a dramatic increase in shootings.
Srey Naren, the provincial co-ordinator for rights group Adhoc, said 11 loggers had been shot dead during the corresponding period in 2011, and that increasing poverty had helped brokers persuade more people to risk their lives.
But Thailand’s ambassador to Cambodia, Viraphand Vacharathit, denied the number of killings was on the rise.
“The shootings have only happened when they use weapons against us. It is self-defence,” he said, adding he had not been informed of last Wednesday’s shooting.