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Thais return body of slain illegal logger

THE Thai military on Tuesday sent back to Oddar Meanchey province the body of a 19-year-old Cambodian man who was shot and killed by Thai soldiers Saturday when he tried to log illegally after crossing the border, the provincial police chief said, amid calls for similar incidents to be investigated.

“We contacted the Thai commander in Khantaralak district, Sisaket province, and he offered to send the body of Meas Oun back home,” Keo Sann said.

Men Morn, the deputy chief of Trapaing Prasat district’s Bak Anluong commune, said Meas Oun was among a group of 13 men who travelled to Sisaket province on Friday. All but Meas Oun returned on Sunday, and the other loggers reported that he had been shot and killed after Thai soldiers caught them.

Meas Haily, Meas Oun’s uncle, said that the family had received the body on Tuesday afternoon and was preparing to hold a funeral Tuesday evening.

The case is only the latest violent encounter between illegal loggers and the Thai military. Pouth Nin, 22, also from Trapaing Prasat district, sustained a gunshot wound to his right leg after Thai soldiers reportedly opened fire on him last month, and Oddar Meanchey authorities also say they are convinced that Thai soldiers shot and burned alive 16-year-old Yon Rith when he was on an illegal logging trip in September.

Chan Soveth, a monitor and investigator for the rights group Adhoc, called for the government to demand that the Thai soldiers involved in such shootings be held accountable for their actions. “They should simply arrest the loggers and send them to the court if they are guilty,” he said.

Koy Kuong, spokesman for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said Tuesday that he had instructed staff at the Cambodian embassy in Thailand to investigate the case of Meas Oun.

Thai Ministry of Foreign Affairs deputy spokesman Thani Thongphakdi said Tuesday that he was unaware of the case.

“If we do receive any information, we’ll certainly look into it and try to ascertain the facts of the matter,” he said.

ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY JAMES O’TOOLE

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