PHNOM PENH – The Cambodian government on Tuesday called on Thai authorities to use the courts and not guns against its citizens caught poaching protected timber.
The sharp rise in deaths of illegal loggers was of great concern, spokesman Phay Siphan said.
He was speaking after the Cambodian government released figures showing 45 Cambodian loggers were shot dead in Thailand last year, three times the number killed in 2011 and five times the number shot dead in 2010.
Two Cambodians have reportedly been killed so far this year while poaching timber in Thailand.
The government statistics also showed authorities in Thailand last year arrested 264 Cambodians for illegal logging offences.
The Cambodian government “does not support criminals, but we do support a civilised judgement against human beings in accordance with the law”, Phay Siphan said.
He said a solution required efforts from both sides, including reducing demand for timber such as rosewood.
On Friday, Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen announced a ban on the cutting and selling of rosewood.
Environmental experts said China’s burgeoning demand for rosewood had driven the tree to near extinction inside Cambodia despite its protected status. Cambodians now travel to Thailand to cut rosewood illegally, earning hundreds of dollars per trip.
Rights groups have also highlighted factors such as poverty and a lack of jobs, which they said left some impoverished rural residents with little option but to take the risk.