CHIANG RAI – Thai security forces shot and killed at least three Cambodians Thursday night who were logging illegally in Thailand across the border from Cambodia’s Oddar Meanchey province, military and government officials said Sunday.
Yim Yorn, 37, Pob Thea, 37, and Muon Chen, 57, were logging about 8 km across the border in Thailand when they were fatally shot by Thai forces, according to Colonel Ly Lada of the provincial military police.
“The soldiers fired at the rosewood cutters inside the Thai forest,” Col. Lada said.
The men’s bodies have yet to be returned to Cambodian officials.
Toch Ra, border liaison chief at the Choam Sangam international checkpoint, said although authorities had confirmed the death of three Cambodians, they had received unconfirmed reports that as many as 10 Cambodians had been shot.
“Reliable sources say there are only three men who were shot and killed,” said Mr. Ra. “So far, we have not received any report from the Thai border police about the shooting.”
Lay Meng, deputy border liaison chief for Oddar Meanchey, said he had often implored the Thai border police to apprehend the loggers rather than shoot them.
“I always ask the Thai border police not to shoot my people and if they cross illegally to arrest them,” he said. “Recently, we have arrested Thai people who crossed the border illegally. We arrested them alive and we sent them back to their country. We never shoot them.”
Srey Naren, a provincial monitor for rights group Adhoc, said last week’s deaths put the number of Cambodians shot dead while logging illegally in Thailand so far this year at 14. Government officials say 45 Cambodians were shot dead under similar conditions in 2012.
Thailand has said repeatedly that its security forces do arrest most Cambodian loggers who enter illegally and only shoot when fired upon first.
Thai and Cambodian officials have held several meetings over the past year to try and bring the numbers down but with little obvious effect.