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Thai security personnel patrol a section of forest near the Cambodian border
Thai security personnel patrol a section of forest near the Cambodian border last year in an effort to reduce illegal logging in the area. EIA

Shootings follow apology

Less than a week after Thailand’s defence minister expressed remorse over cross-border shootings at the hands of his country’s military, two Cambodian soldiers were shot while allegedly logging across the border from Battambang’s Samlot district on Sunday, an official and the relatives of one of the victims said.

Both men survived, though one was seriously injured, according to Ek Huy, chief of police for Ta Tork commune in Samlot.

Huy said the two men – Nat Sin, 32, and Eab Sam Arth, 36 – were border officers with Unit 521 under Division 525. Sin and Sam Arth crossed the border and were in the area between Battambang and Thailand’s Trat province when the Thai military encountered them and fired.

“They went to log and were shot at with about 10 rounds by Thai soldiers, and Nat Sin was injured seriously,” Huy said. He said he did not know if the Cambodians were also armed.

After being shot, the men were sent to Regional Hospital 5 in Battambang, Huy said, adding that this was the first shooting by Thai soldiers in the area all year.

Hang Mom, Sin’s 56-year-old mother-in-law, said her son-in-law was not illegally logging. Instead, he was looking for rattan inside Cambodian territory when he was shot.

“They shot him, and his friend carried him home. He was in pain and nearly died. He told his wife he would not survive and asked her to look at him before he died,” she said.

Sin held on, she said, and asked police to call a taxi to bring him to the hospital at about 11pm, but as of yesterday afternoon, he had not yet been operated on.

However, at the hospital, an X-ray revealed shrapnel, not bullets, said Nat Vanna, 33, Sin’s brother.

Chim Chamnan, chief of the Cambodian-Thai Border Relations Office in charge of crossings in Pailin and Battambang provinces, said he hasn’t received any information about the shooting. He just returned from a meeting in Thailand and said he would investigate the claims, adding the situation along the border is utter chaos.

“It is anarchic along the border. Drugs, illegal crossings and logging still exist. It is damn difficult,” he said.

Koy Kuong, spokesman for Cambodia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said he did not have information about the shooting and referred questions to the Ministry of Defense. Lieutenant General Nem Sowath, an adviser to the cabinet of Defence Minister Tea Banh, said he was out of the country and unaware of the incident.

Last week, Thailand’s Minister of Defence Prawit Wongsuwan apologised for the ongoing shootings in a joint statement with Banh, but also said they were unintentional.

“This is a problem that we need to discuss and resolve. We do not want it to happen or shoot anyone to death,” Prawit said.

The remarks stood in sharp contrast to those made by Prime Minister and coup leader Prayuth Chan-ocha earlier this month when he dismissed reports from Oddar Meanchey province that Thai soldiers had shot a Cambodian woman in the head while she was foraging for food.

Prayuth said the two countries would investigate the shooting not long after Cambodia sent a stinging rebuke to the Thai government over the woman’s death.

Thailand’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs did not return a request for comment yesterday. Asked if Cambodia’s ministry would send another strongly worded statement to Thailand, Kuong said there wasn’t enough information to make that kind of decision.

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