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Six loggers ‘missing’ after border shooting

Six loggers ‘missing’ after border shooting

Authorities based near the northern border with Thailand said yesterday that two Cambodian loggers were wounded by gunfire from Thai troops and another six went missing on Saturday after a raid on an illegal rosewood transport heading back to Preah Vihear province.

First Lieutenant May Put, Choam Ksan district deputy police chief in Preah Vihear, said the two victims were migrants from Kampot province, and that they escaped the raid on March 16.

“Now, the victims are back home with their relatives,” Put said.

He identified the two as Khoch Roth, 25, and Cheoun Sokheoun, 35, who were wounded in the back and right leg, respectively.

“I am not sure about the other six people missing, maybe they escaped death, because my sources at the border haven’t heard about them,” he said. “After the order by Prime Minister Hun Sen, we were strictly keeping watch on people crossing the border into Thailand, but they still escaped our watch.”

He said that local villagers had stopped crossing the border for illegal rosewood and that the trade was now largely dominated by northbound migrants from other provinces.

“Those migrant people come to the border to earn money; we suspect that there might be a middleman making a way for them to cross the border while we had our guard down,” he said.

But Sok Hai, Choam Ksan district governor, disputed the account, and said that one illegal logger had been detained and was talking to the police.

“We have been questioning the victim to find out a ring leader, and we have to take hot action against a ring leader,” he said.

On February 22, Hun Sen ordered all commanders of the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces and police stationed along the borders with Thailand, Laos and Vietnam to take more thorough measures to stop the illegal rosewood trade, saying that “individual commanders have to take responsibility” for cases of cross-border smuggling.

Officials at the Thai Embassy in Phnom Penh could not reach for comment yesterday.

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