The Thai government yesterday broke its silence on charred remains found 10 days ago alleged to have been two Cambodians burned alive by Thai soldiers, saying no conclusion had been reached.
Cambodia’s western neighbour has been slow to release investigative findings about what could prove to be a serious diplomatic incident if confirmed.
Thai Foreign Minister General Tanasak Patimapragorn told his Cambodian counterpart, Hor Namhong, at the 9th Meeting of the Cambodia-Thailand Joint Commission on Bilateral Cooperation yesterday that the country was checking whether the bodies, found in the border province of Sa Kaeo, were Thai or Cambodian.
“Until now, Thailand is working to check the remains and has not yet given the result to us, whether they [the bodies] are Thai or Khmer,” said Cambodian foreign ministry spokesman Koy Kuong.
“Thailand thinks that the remains could belong to Thai people.”
Kuong also called on Cambodians to report if they have relatives missing that could be connected to the case.
But a Siem Reap family has already said they are certain that their two missing relatives, Souv Ros, 21, and Voeun Chi, 36, were burned to death by Thai military, and on Thursday held a funeral for them.
On Sunday, a deputy military commander in Battambang said that Thai soldiers had admitted to burning two men alive in car tyres on January 7 after they were caught smuggling a motorbike across the border.
Unnamed Thai army officials have since denied the claims, according to the Bangkok Post.
Yesterday, Voeun Bean of Siem Reap’s Kralanh district, said he was sure that the two burned bodies were his brothers, who were crossing into Thailand around that time and matched descriptions of the alleged smugglers.
“I am so angry, but I do not know what I should do. They [Thai soldiers] are too cruel,” he said. Bean added that he would complain to local authorities today.
Tensions have flared between Cambodia and Thailand in recent weeks over this incident and at the Preah Vihear border, where more than 200 Thai troops were deployed in late December in response to Cambodian road building in an area the Thais claim is “neutral”.
Prime Minister Hun Sen has sought to reset his historically fractious relationship with the Thai military since last year’s coup, most notably in October when a lavish welcome was put on for Thai Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha during his first official visit to Phnom Penh.
The ongoing issue of illegal Cambodian loggers being shot by Thai soldiers at the border was also addressed during yesterday’s talks, with Thailand confirming local authorities had been ordered not to open fire, according to Kuong.
“If any incident takes place involving injury and the loss of life … we need a proper investigation,” he said.