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Neighbours united by blood wood concern

Senior Cambodian and Thai officials yesterday agreed to create a committee to investigate the rising number of Cambodians shot dead while crossing illegally into Thailand to log rosewood, a border official said.

Pich Vanna, director of the Cambodian-Thai Border Relations Office, said officials had agreed during the six-hour meeting in Poipet that the issue of border shootings and associated illegal logging needed to be addressed co-operatively.

“It was decided that the two countries would create a joint national investigating committee with provincial sub-committees,” he said, adding that the plan would have to be taken to higher levels of each government to be considered further.

The talks follow reports last month that a group of seven Cambodians who had crossed from Oddar Meanchey province into Thailand to log had been shot dead in a single incident, allegedly by Thai soldiers.

In that instance, anonymous officials gave the names of four victims shot dead, but neither Cambodian nor Thai officials were able to confirm any more details.

“The information is still not clear on that,” Vanna said yesterday. “I heard it only through the media. Thai officials also don’t know.”

  During the meeting, led by Long Visalo, secretary of state at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and his Thai counterpart, Jullapong Nonsrichai, attendees agreed that military, border and provincial police should form the basis of the committee and sub-committees, Vanna added.

“Old issues we didn’t talk about yesterday – we focused on the committee. It’s simple. If Cambodians are shot dead in Thailand, both parties must investigate,” he said.

Prior to last month’s shooting deaths, rights-group Adhoc had investigated the deaths of eight Cambodians allegedly shot by Thai soldiers this year.

Forty-five Cambodians were shot dead crossing illegally into Thailand last year – three times as many as in 2011.

The Cambodian Center for Human Rights has called for the shootings to be investigated and called them “no less than extra-judicial and arbitrary acts of murder”.

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