Seven Cambodians were shot dead, allegedly by Thai soldiers, after crossing the border into Thailand from Oddar Meanchey province just after midnight on Friday morning, two military sources said yesterday.
A Thai military official, however, denied the shootings had occurred.
According to two Cambodian military sources who spoke on condition of anonymity, the incident was the latest example of Thai soldiers shooting dead Cambodians crossing the border illegally.
“We have identified only four victims of the seven because their families have reported to us,” one military official said. “The other three have not been identified. Those seven bodies are still in Thai territory.”
He identified the four known victims as Pop Thy, 52, from Kampong Thom province’s Santuk district; Touch Yim, 52, from Kampong Speu’s Kong Pisei district; Yim Yorn, 32, also from Kong Pisei district; and someone identified only as Chhun, 28, from Kampot’s Banteay Meas district.
The unnamed official said that report on the shooting was sent to the Ministry of Defence on Saturday night.
A Cambodian border soldier in Oddar Meanchey’s Trapaing Prasat district said about 50 Cambodians had tried to cross the border from O’Svay commune into Thailand’s Si Sa Ket province to illegally log rosewood.
“Seven of them were shot dead by Thai soldiers in their territory,” he said.
Colonel Tanes Wongcha-aum, a Thai commander in charge of the border area of Si Sa Ket province, denied the shooting allegations but refused to comment further.
On the Cambodian side, Keo Tann, Traipaing Prasat district police chief, said he had not received information about the alleged deaths, but had been looking into the matter.
“Journalists have been contacting me all day long, but I don’t know,” he said. “I have gone to the village and the commune in Trapaing Prasat, but I don’t have the information.”
Touch Ra, director of the Cambodian-Thai border relations working group, also could not confirm details, saying he had contacted his Thai counterparts after hearing reports of a shooting, but had not yet received information.
Srey Naren, provincial coordinator for rights group Adhoc, said he was investigating the incident.
In the first four months of this year, he said, his organisation had recorded eight incidents of Thai soldiers killing Cambodian border-crossers.
Those deaths followed a bloody 2012, when 45 Cambodians were shot dead – three times as many as in 2011.
In response to the mounting violence, the Cambodian Center for Human Rights sent an open letter to Thai Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra last Wednesday urging Thailand to investigate the high number of shooting deaths at the border.
“[S]uch actions cannot be justified as self-defence as they are no less than extra-judicial and arbitrary acts of murder,” the letter said.
Koy Kuong, spokesman for Cambodia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, declined to comment.
Additional reporting by Shane Worrell and Bangkok Post