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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Service for missing as Thailand stays silent

Service for missing as Thailand stays silent

A Siem Reap family held a corpseless burial for relatives they are certain were killed by the Thai military last week, even though officials continue delaying and denying any identification of two charred bodies recovered along the border.

“The reason I’m sure those burned bodies are my brothers is because since the incident they have never called back. They usually called every day. I was told a day after the incident about two men who were caught by the Thai soldiers . . . These descriptions are how my brothers looked,” Voeun Bean said.

Thailand has maintained official silence about the discovery of the two bodies, which a Cambodian military commander alleged to be the remains of Cambodians burned alive for attempting to smuggle a moto across the border.

High-level talks between the two nations are expected to kick off in Siem Reap today, but Cambodia’s Foreign Affairs Ministry did not confirm whether the remains or the recent spate of alleged military-on-civilian violence would be on the agenda.

“We have to wait and see,” said spokesman Koy Kuong, adding that it could take longer than the initial timeline of 10 days to identify the remains.

Rights observers yesterday speculated that Thailand’s investigation will likely never conclude with the bodies being identified given such recognition would not benefit Thailand, and Cambodia has been disinclined to push the issue.

“I don’t know that the Cambodian government has what it takes to fight back on this,” said independent analyst Ou Virak. “It’s horrifying, something cruel has taken place and a proper investigation needs to be conducted . . . but Thailand isn’t going to do that and I don’t see Cambodia taking any measures.”

But addressing the longstanding issue at bilateral talks could only benefit the nations, said Paul Chambers, director of research at Thailand’s Institute of South East Asian Affairs.

“If the pattern of continuous Thai shootings of Cambodian soldiers along the Thai-Cambodian border continues unabated, then facts on the ground may undo attempts by leaders at the top to improve relations. At stake is a multi-billion dollar trade relationship,” he said.

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