Human rights NGO Licadho has reported that Thai border guards set a 'landmine
trap' which killed five Cambodians and wounded six others on October
"We will check with the victims and, if they agree, take this
further," said Licadho director Naly Pilorge. "This is a very serious abuse, and
we are considering action in both the Thai and Cambodian courts."
Cambodians died from gunshot and landmine wounds and six others were seriously
injured in the incident on the Thai side of the border near Banteay Meanchey
Border police alerted the media in Bangkok about the killings,
which were reported as an 'exchange of fire' between the soldiers and a group of
30 Cambodian smugglers. But when the survivors returned to Cambodia they told
police and human rights workers a different story.
Twenty Cambodians had
crossed the border late on October 1 at O'Bai Chhorn commune in Banteay
Meanchey. They were promised 500 baht ($11) to push a stolen pick-up across the
border under the cover of night.
At 3:30 the following morning the group
arrived at a Thai road regularly used by Cambodians as an illicit border
crossing, and started pushing the car toward Cambodian territory. What they
didn't know was that the road had become a minefield.
investigators said the men then accidentally set off the mines. Twenty minutes
later a detachment of the Thai military's border defense unit arrived with two
vehicles and a tank and opened fire on the men. Banteay Meanchey Governor Thach
Kharn, agreed with that assessment.
Licadho's report stated that the Thai
soldiers then dragged the bodies to the vehicle, placed a rifle and a grenade on
the corpses and photographed the bodies. The dead and injured were returned
through the Poipet border crossing the following day.
Var Kim Hong, the
chairman of the Council of Ministers' border committee, said his team was aware
of the case but had not yet received a detailed report.
the Council of Ministers] Sok An will raise this issue with the Thai government
during our bilateral meeting on border issues scheduled for next week," he said.
"This is a humanitarian issue - they entered illegally, but they should not be
shot. They should only be arrested."
Hong said that if it proved true the
Thai forces had laid the mines, that would be a breach of its international
treaty obligations. Thailand is a signatory to the 1997 treaty banning
The latest incident is perhaps the worst of a number of recent
violent attacks by Thai border guards against Cambodians looking to make the
illegal crossing. Pilorge said it was "very reflective" of the kinds of abuses
visited on Cambodians in the border area.
Every year thousands of
impoverished Cambodians cross the border into Thailand in search of work. While
some can earn up to 40 times what they make in Cambodia, others walk straight
into a horror story.
A working paper on labor migration written three
years ago by the Cambodian Development Resource Institute estimated that as many
as 82,000 Cambodians live and work illegally in Thailand at any one
Many spend a good deal of time dodging the Thai authorities. Those
who are caught are normally shipped back across the border. Poipet police
estimate that some 10,000 were arrested and repatriated in 2000.
this year the Cambodian Women's Crisis Center reported that the number of
Cambodians crossing to work in Thailand had risen dramatically. Nearly 14,000
people were caught entering Thailand via the Poipet border crossing between May
and October 2001, almost three times as much as the 1999 period.