Three Cambodians were fatally shot by Thai border security forces last week while illegally logging rosewood in the neighbouring country, officials have said.
The reports of deaths come amid tensions between the two countries over the alleged killing of dozens of Cambodian loggers in recent years.
Ho Sokun, director of the Department of Border Affairs, confirmed the reports of the deaths yesterday, adding that the agency was planning to make a formal request to the Thais to return the bodies.
“The border relations committee is going to ask the Thai side to return the remains,” he said.
A post on the website of the National Police on Tuesday said that at least four illegal loggers were shot at by Thai border rangers on February 5 after they had crossed into Thailand two days earlier to log rosewood, according to one of the loggers, who was seriously injured but managed to make his way back to Cambodia.
Chhin Sna, head of the joint Cambodia-Thailand border working group, said the men had crossed the border illegally near the Anses checkpoint. The shooting took place in Thailand’s Sisaket province, he added.
“I am stationed at Anses all the time, but I did not know this had happened, because it was on the other side of the border. By now, the bodies might be rotting, but the families will probably request they be sent back,” he said.
The dead were identified as Keut Yet, 34, Koeu Rina, 34, and Tha, 32. The reports of their deaths could not be independently confirmed.
The known survivor, 33-year-old Ko Bear, survived and is being treated at an unnamed hospital in Siem Reap, police said.
A spokesman for Thailand’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs did not respond to a request for comment as of press time.
Koy Kuong, spokesman at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said the government was in contact with the Cambodian consulate in Bangkok to try to establish the facts of the case.
“We have to find out exactly what happened, because what the loggers say is sometimes not the whole truth. Previously, [Thai security forces] have said they shot in self-defence, which suggests the victims could have had weapons,” he said.
According to official figures, which Thailand disputes, as many as 47 loggers were shot dead in Thailand in 2013, down to 11 last year.
ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY DANIEL PYE