Thai police have arrested three Thais in connection with the killing earlier this month of five Cambodian nationals working at a furniture factory in Thailand, a foreign ministry official said Thursday.
At a hastily convened news conference Thursday afternoon, Foreign Ministry Secretary of State Long Visalo said he was informed of the arrests of three of the four suspects by the Cambodian counselor to Thailand’s Sakeo province.
“[The] Khmer consul phoned me this morning and informed me that three Thai nationals who worked in the same factory were arrested,” Long Visalo said.
Thai authorities had initially speculated that the May 7 killings were the result of a dispute among the factory’s 300 Cambodian workers. After encouraging Cambodian migrant workers in Thailand to return home, Cambodian officials pressed Thailand to launch a thorough investigation into the killings.
The victims were killed during a botched robbery attempt, Long Visalo said. He said that the Cambodians had run a side business selling noodles and snacks to other workers and that the money they earned made some jealous.
When the robbers attacked, “the Cambodians wouldn’t give them the money, that’s why they shot them,” Long Visalo said. The gunshots attracted a crowd, he said, and the attackers fled without stealing any money.
Long Visalo added that workers at the factory had identified the suspects and backed up the Thai authorities’ version of events.
“I think that this information is true because Cambodian people in the factory knew [the suspects],” he said.
Long Visalo said the suspects would be brought before a Thai court today and that the Cambodian government would push for them to be punished.
But he left open the possibility that those charged were merely scapegoats.
“I always worry that the arrested are scapegoats to make things look good,” Long Visalo said.
Nuttavudh Photisaro, charge d’affairs at the Thai Embassy in Phnom Penh, confirmed that three of four suspects in the case had been arrested but offered no further details.