THAI soldiers shot and killed two Cambodian loggers in Thailand on Monday night, and eight members of their group are still missing, officials and rights workers said Tuesday.
The loggers were part of a group of 31 Cambodians who had crossed illegally into Thai territory, said Yim Phana, governor of Oddar Meanchey province’s Anlong Veng district. Twenty-one members of the group have returned safely to Oddar Meanchey, he added.
On Monday night, “I received a phone call from the Thai military arranging to return one of the dead bodies, while local authorities have been preparing to retrieve the other body”, he said.
Srey Naren, Oddar Meanchey provincial coordinator for the rights group Adhoc, identified one of the dead men as 34-year-old Cheng Cheath of Oddar Meanchey’s Trapaing Prasat district. The other man, he said, has yet to be identified.
Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman Koy Kuong fiercely denounced the Thai military, saying that the government would send a diplomatic note to Thailand about the incident.
“The barbarous, ferocious and inhuman actions of the Thai soldiers are against our bilateral agreements,” he said, adding: “We mourn the recently deceased villagers, and we condemn the Thai soldiers for using wild law against Cambodian people.”
Thai government spokesman Panitan Wattanyagorn said Tuesday that Bangkok had yet to confirm reports of the shooting.
“Our policy is clear: We would like to work with Cambodia to counter transnational crimes across borders,” he said, calling an investigation of the incident an “internal matter” of the Thai military. Thai military officials did not respond to a request for comment.
Seven Cambodian loggers have reportedly been killed by Thai soldiers near the border in Oddar Meanchey since September.
Nhem En, Anlong Veng deputy governor, said Cambodians living along the border are driven by poverty to log in Thailand, even when they are aware of the dangers involved. He called on Prime Minister Hun Sen to secure the border.
“Poor villagers look for people to hire them to cross the border and transport logs, even if they have to risk their lives,” he said.