Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Thailand says zero loggers harmed

Thailand says zero loggers harmed

A man reveals the entry wound on his leg where he was shot by a Thai soldier while illegally logging earlier this year
A man reveals the entry wound on his leg where he was shot by a Thai soldier while illegally logging earlier this year. Heng Chivoan

Thailand says zero loggers harmed

Thai government figures obtained by the Post this week state that no Cambodian nationals have been harmed this year while illegally felling luxury timber across the border, contesting numerous accounts of both shootings and fatalities from Cambodian officials and loggers.

Thailand’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs told the Post that, according to information from the Border Defence Command, between January 1 and September 2 “there have been no reports of clashes or losses of life” of loggers on either side of the border.

“Thailand has no policy to use any forms of violence against illegal loggers and we stand firm on respecting human rights and relevant international laws,” Dana Darongsuwan, third secretary at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ Department of Information, said in an email this week.

Darongsuwan added that 149 Cambodian illegal loggers were arrested within the nine-month period.

“Most Cambodian illegal loggers who have hitherto been arrested and prosecuted in accordance with the Thai judicial system have been found to commit minor offences and received minor punishments according to the law, such as fines or suspension of sentences. They are subsequently released to go back to Cambodia,” she said.

But Srey Naren, a coordinator for local rights group Adhoc in Oddar Meanchey province – a common entry point for Cambodians seeking lucrative wood across the border – said Thailand was merely trying to escape accountability.

“The Thai government just doesn’t want to be responsible for what it has done to Cambodian people,” he said. “We have the family members of the victims – it is proof.”

According to the Ministry of Interior, 69 Cambodians were shot dead while illegally crossing the Thai border last year.

Cambodian officials said in March that Thai soldiers had shot dead 12 Cambodian loggers in a single day.

While Bangkok denied the shootings, in the same month, a district governor in Preah Vihear province told the Post that the Thai military had admitted to killing three people accused of illegal logging and burning their corpses.

Members of a logging cartel in Oddar Meanchey province told the Post in May of regular shootings; one logger showed evidence of a bullet still embedded in his thigh.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Koy Kuong said Cambodia had urged Thailand to “arrest, not shoot”.

But 19-year-old Mom Phearum told the Post yesterday that just last week, black-uniformed Thai paramilitary forces opened fire as he attempted to carry illegally logged rosewood into Cambodia.

Phearum said he was travelling in a group of 20 loggers back to his home in Battambang’s Samlot district when the soldiers opened fire and subsequently arrested three members of the group, including his two brothers.

The Thai soldiers “saw us and started to shoot at us from the mountain. My brothers told me to drop the wood and escape, but they kept carrying the wood.… Both of them and another villager were arrested,” he said.

Lieutenant General Prak Phan, director of border communication at checkpoint 400, said that Thailand had denied shooting or arresting any loggers.

“We are still suspicious,” he said, adding that he would press Thailand for more answers on the incident and the whereabouts of the three missing men.

ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY MAY TITTHARA

MOST VIEWED

  • Serious flooding across country

    The Kampong Speu provincial Committee for Disaster Management on Wednesday issued an alert after non-stop heavy rain caused widespread flooding. In Koh Kong province, authorities are working with the disaster committee and the Cambodian Red Cross to assist those affected after more than 350 homes were

  • CNRP points to King in call for vote boycott

    Leaders of the former Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) have taken a new tack in their call for a boycott of the national elections later this month. They are now claiming that the people should follow the King, who is expected to abide by tradition

  • Actress’s NGO takes heat for promoting the ruling party

    An actress’s NGO which participated in an election campaign event contrary to the Law on Association and Non-Governmental Organisations (Lango) has been slammed. Chorn Chanleakena, a celebrity and the president of the Association of Artists Volunteering to Help Society, allegedly led its members in

  • Troop moves ‘won’t worry people’

    Senior officials at the Ministry of Defence and National Police said on Tuesday that riot training provided to the country’s police forces were aimed at preventing unexpected demonstrations and strikes before and after the July 29 national elections. The troop mobilisation, they said, would not