Two Cambodian brothers were shot dead earlier this week during a raid on a rosewood smuggling operation inside Thai territory by armed Thai forces, a human rights group and a retired military official familiar with the situation have confirmed.
Preliminary reports have identified the brothers as Chhiv Chheang, 40, and Chhiv Touch, 25, according to Srey Naren, the Oddar Meanchey provincial co-ordinator for human rights group Adhoc.
About 10 other loggers escaped the barrage of gunfire, but it wasn’t clear whether they made it back into Cambodia.
Naren said the two were shot late at night on Monday after crossing over into Thai territory from Trapaing Prasat district in Oddar Meanchey province on the northwestern border.
He said the brothers are from Trapaing Koy village in the Chhouk district of Kampot province.
According to Adhoc, from January until March 12, Thai soldiers shot dead a total of seven men rossing from Trapaing Prasat district into Thailand to log.
In all of 2012, according to a recent government report, 45 people were shot to death while crossing over to illegally log, and Thai authorities made 264 arrests.
The deaths represent a threefold increase from 2011, which – at the time – represented the bloodiest year yet.
Speaking on the condition of anonymity, a former senior military official in Oddar Meanchey confirmed that the brothers had been killed.
He said they were part of a larger group of loggers who went into Thailand to transport rosewood.
However, Pich Vanna, deputy chief of the Cambodia-Thai Border Office, and Trapaing Prasat district police chief Keo Tharn said they had no immediate knowledge of the shooting.
Both Vanna and Tharn said that local authorities have been deployed to investigate.
“The incident is not yet confirmed, we still have to investigate,” Vanna said.