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PMs talk migration, statues

Cambodian migrants are transported across the Thai-Cambodian border
Cambodian migrants are transported across the Thai-Cambodian border by Thai authorities to the town of Poipet in June. Hong Menea

PMs talk migration, statues

The shooting of a Cambodian woman by Thai soldiers was left off the agenda during recent talks between Cambodia and Thailand’s prime ministers, which instead focused on issuing migrants passports and the ownership of ancient treasures.

Prime Minister Hun Sen and his Thai counterpart General Prayuth Chan-ocha met on Friday during the Mekong Sub-Region leaders meeting in Bangkok.

The pair reached an agreement to issue Cambodian migrants in Thailand with passports and progressed on talks over the ownership of Khmer antiques seized by Thai authorities.

However, the case of 55-year-old Horn Chem from O’Smach commune in Oddar Meanchey’s Samrong town, who was shot by Thai soldiers after straying across the border in search of food, was avoided.

The omission contrasts sharply with a strongly worded letter delivered to Thai authorities by the Cambodian government last week, demanding an investigation and calling for a stop to border killings by the Thai military.

Prior to the meeting, Prayuth dismissed reports of the shooting as inaccurate, saying Thai soldiers did not shoot unarmed people at the border.

He said the region was “plagued by illegal logging” leading to fights between soldiers and loggers.

He did, however, say that a joint panel involving both countries would be set up to investigate.

Prayuth’s denial came as deputy O’Smach commune chief Nhean Sarom said Chem was likely looking for timber as well as food, which was common among villagers.

Arriving back in Phnom Penh with Hun Sen on Saturday, a minister attached to the premier, Kao Kim Hourn, said 10 teams of officials would be dispatched across the border to issue Cambodians passports, helping potentially thousands avoid repatriation.

According to Minister of Labour Ith Sam Heng, there are more than 600,000 Cambodians working legally and illegally in Thailand.

Meanwhile, Kim Hourn said Cambodian experts would be allowed to inspect 36 antiquities recently seized by Thai authorities, including Buddha statues, works presumed to be from Phnom Da and figurines of Hindu deities.

The loot was confiscated as part of an investigation into Thailand’s former Central Investigation Bureau chief Pongpat Chayapan’s alleged extortion racket.

Other issues discussed included linking Cambodian towns Koh Kong and Poipet with two border areas in Thailand through “economic zones” and opening a new border crossing in Stung Bot.

ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY THE BANGKOK POST

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