Thai soldiers opened fire on a group of 17 illegal loggers yesterday evening, wounding two, police said.
The group had illegally crossed the border into Thailand in Oddar Meanchey province under cover of darkness when they encountered a Thai patrol, according to Brigadier General Men Leu, chief of the provincial police department.
All the loggers managed to make it back to Cambodian soil, but two of the group sustained gunshot wounds, he added.
“They were shot by Thai soldiers while they were illegally crossing the border to cut luxury trees in Thailand,” he said. “Two villagers were shot and injured. One man was shot and got seriously injured on his left arm. And another man was shot . . . in the back of his neck.”
The two injured loggers were being treated for their injuries at the provincial hospital last night and were in stable condition.
The two men – Vun Vann, 25, and Sok Samay, 38 – are from Trapaing Prasat district’s Chey Nivoath village.
Major Sok Rith, deputy chief of the district police, said the men had likely been hired by local timber traders to log Siamese rosewood, which can fetch sky-high sums when sold on to Chinese and Vietnamese buyers.
“Our police have educated the villagers about not crossing the borders to cut trees in Thailand . . . but some of them don’t listen to us,” Rith said.
So far this year, eight people have allegedly been killed by Thai security forces after entering Thailand illegally to log rosewood while a further 20 have been reported injured, according to local rights group Adhoc.
Srey Narin, the NGO’s Oddar Meanchey coordinator, said that the area around where the two men were inured yesterday had seen the highest number of incidents.
“I think the main reason that the provincial police could not stop villagers from illegally entering Thailand to cut trees is because they [the authorities] are behind the luxury timber businesses in the province,” Narin said.
“They get benefits from them, so they allow villagers to log.”
A Thai Foreign Ministry spokesman did not respond to a request for comment.
In June, an Australian researcher found that the modern Cambodian state has been shaped by the collection of money from illegal logging, which has profited a relatively small politically connected elite and ensured the ruling party’s grip on the state apparatus.
The study reported staggering incomes from logging operations, including estimated daily revenue of $500,000 from a single timber business in Mondulkiri province.
Prime Minister Hun Sen passed a decree in 2013 explicitly banning the harvesting, transportation and sale of Siamese rosewood in Cambodia without the issuance of special permits.