One Cambodian was fatally shot, two were injured and more than 100 others fled Thailand under gunfire on Saturday after Thai soldiers allegedly discovered them illegally logging rosewood near Preah Vihear province, military officials said yesterday.
Ten men were unable to escape and were captured by Thai authorities in the aftermath of the shooting, which occurred in Thailand’s Ubon Ratchathani province, Meas Yoeun, deputy military commander in Preah Vihear province’s Choam Ksan district, told the Post yesterday.
The Thais claimed that their gunfire was an act of “self-protection” because the Cambodians had fired first, Meas Yoeun reported. However, the deputy military commander said that the group of loggers did not own firearms.
“The Cambodians did not have guns, as the Thais alleged. They just had knives and axes to log the rosewood,” Meas Yoeun said, adding that it was “illegal” for the Thais to shoot at Cambodian civilians.
Pich Vanna, deputy director of the Cambodia-Thai border office, similarly decried the shooting, calling for a “ceasefire” and accusing the Thais of firing on Cambodians as if they were animals.
The deputy director also said he had filed a notice to Thai officials on Sunday asking for permission for Cambodian authorities to search for the body of the slain logger and for the repatriation of the 10 who were detained, but had not yet received a response.
Lor Chan, provincial coordinator for rights group Adhoc in Preah Vihear, said the shooting was a “serious abuse of human rights”.
“Human life isn’t like an animal’s life. You can’t just shoot people whenever you feel like it,” Lor Chan said.
This most recent shooting comes in the wake of increased numbers of Cambodian loggers being killed during border crossings.
Recent figures from rights group Adhoc claim 13 Cambodian illegal loggers were shot and killed in the first quarter of the year by Thai soldiers. With that figure now at 14, the numbers appear on pace to rise markedly from 2011, when only 13 Cambodians were killed in the entire year.
Prime Minister Hun Sen earlier this month challenged military commanders, police and local authorities to launch a “campaign” to help prevent the illegal crossing into Thailand by Cambodian loggers.
To contact the reporter on this story: Tep Nimol at [email protected]