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Thai military kills two in shooting at border

Cambodian officials and a human-rights group yesterday condemned the fatal shooting of two Cambodian men who crossed into Thailand on Sunday, allegedly to illegally log.

Thailand yesterday repatriated the bodies of the two men who Thai soldiers gunned down about four kilometres from the Cambodian-Thai border at Bat­tambang province, police said yesterday.

Despite a local report yesterday that the two men were Royal Cambodian Armed Forces soldiers, Nguon Muth, chief of staff at Samlot district police station, identified the victims as civilians Chhorn Vannak, 18 and Lon Puth, 19.

“The deceased were citizens, not Khmer soldiers,” he said.

Chhorn Vannak and Lon Puth, from Samlot commune in Samlot district, were among a group of at least 18 people who had crossed the border with the intention of logging, Nguon Muth said.

“We did not know two of them had been shot dead until the corpses were repatriated early today,” he said yesterday, adding that the victim’s bodies had been sent to their families, who would hold Buddhist ceremonies for them.

Em Dara, deputy commander of Battambang provincial military police, said the men were shot at about midday on Sunday.

“Thailand repatriated the corpses along with four shells of AK-47 rifle bullets as a way of claiming these supposed loggers fired on them first,” he said.

“This is not acceptable. Thai soldiers always put the blame on Cambodian citizens.”

But Sie Sothong, Battambang provincial governor, said reports suggested the alleged loggers had fired the first shots.

“Our citizens fired first, so they fired back for their safety. However, such a shoot and kill is not acceptable under any law.”

Heng Say Hong, provincial investigator for rights group Licadho, condemned the shooting.

“Thai forces should have arrested them, not shot them like this,” he said.

According to Em Dara, nine of the alleged loggers remain missing.

Major-General Dy Phen, chief of the Cambodian-Thai border relations office, said officials of both countries would search for the missing men.

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