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Thais asked to probe deaths

Local rights group Adhoc is calling on the Thai government’s National Human Rights Commission to investigate the rash of killings of Cambodian loggers by Thai troops near the countries’ shared border, Adhoc senior monitor Chan Soveth said yesterday.

Such killings have been a persistent problem along the border in recent years, one that has prompted government officials to make complaints to Bangkok on several occasions.

Chan Soveth said the request to the NHRC had yet to be finalised, but that Adhoc had documented 52 instances in which Cambodians had been injured, killed or gone missing following shootings by Thai troops from July 2008 until this month. This group includes 13 injured, 27 killed and 12 missing.

“I see this as a positive step to help push Thai soldiers to stop shooting Cambodians and to find justice for the victims,” Chan Soveth said of the proposed NHRC investigation. “We want them to investigate these cases in order to prevent Thai soldiers from shooting Cambodians in the future.”

The NHRC is an independent investigation body established by the Thai government in 1997. An NHRC spokeswoman did not respond to a request for comment yesterday.

Chan Soveth said Adhoc hoped to send its request to the NHRC by the end of this week or next week.

Veerachon Sukondhadhpatipak, deputy spokesman for the Thai Army, said Thai troops had a policy of not using violence against border trespassers unless absolutely necessary.

“Thai troops see Cambodian civilians in their territory and they shoot them first? No, it never happens like that,” Veerachon said. “Our rules of engagement [are] we give them a verbal warning first and ask them to return to their territory.”

Veerachon acknowledged reports that Cambodian civilians had been killed at the border, but said he was unaware of any comprehensive investigation by Thai authorities on the issue.

“If it is reported by the press, of course we would investigate or do a fact-finding mission with people in the area, but I don’t think … the Thai army can reply or respond to all cases unless there is an official inquiry,” he said.

“The Cambodians always speak first, but Thailand, or the Royal Thai Army, has always been quiet, but please do not translate that ... as always accepting the allegations.”

Following the alleged shooting of two Cambodian men in Thailand’s Sa Kaeo province in December, the government sent a diplomatic note to Thailand in relation to the issue, with Foreign Minister Hor Namhong calling the incident “a cruel act … unbecoming of a civilised country”.

Officials at the Foreign Ministry and the Ministry of Interior could not be reached for comment yesterday.

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