Accounts of Border Deaths Differ Widely

Three Cambodian government officials Sunday said Thai border police shot at a group of Cambo­dians who were trying to cross illegally into Thailand.

The auth­orities said at least three Cambo­dians were killed late Thursday either by gunfire or by stepping on a land mine.

On Sum, first deputy governor of Banteay Meanchey, and Voung Thy, Banteay Meanchey deputy military police chief, both said three Cambodians were killed and three were seriously wounded after they stepped on a land mine in Thmar Puok district as they were trying to cross into Thai territory.

Voung Thy identified the dead as Chhoeung Chlay, 20, Thean Thoeun, 21 and Thiek Tik, 27. The wounded were Lux Broh, 21, Euv Soeuth, 18 and Tuon Leuy, 15, Voung Thy said.

Thai border police shot at the group after the mine exploded, both officials said.

Their account differs from that of Banteay Meanchey Second Deputy Governor Nhiek Kim Chhun, who said Thai police shot and killed six Cambodians and wounded two others around       11 pm Thursday at the Boeng Trakuon border pass in Thmar Puok district.

“Thai [soldiers] shot them because they illegally sneaked into their soil at night. We want to have a meeting with Thai authorities about this incident,” Nhiek Kim Chhun said.

While officials disagree on the whether Thai police or a land mine killed the Cambodians, they all agree the Thais shot at the Cambodians.

“No sooner did the mines explode than [the Thai authorities] opened fire,” On Sum said.

Thai Ambassador Asiphol Chabchugrchaidol said Sunday he was unaware of the border incident, but would investigate the case. Weerasak Lomwong, defense attache at the Thai embassy, also said he was unaware of the deaths, but said that “normally, the Thai border police would not shoot at Cambodians crossing the border.”

The victims were farmers who entered Thailand illegally to work in the fields or on sugar cane farms, On Sum said. The survivors are being treated at a hospital in Thmar Puok district.

The Cambodian-Thai border remains heavily mined, and although the Cambodian Mine Action Center employs 273 deminers in Banteay Meanchey province, they have no workers in Thmar Puok because it had a lower priority than other border areas, CMAC Cabinet Chief Heng Ratana said.

The danger of land mines or unexploded ordnance is high along the Cambodian-Thai border areas because of illegal border crossings, he said.

“It’s a common problem because even though many people get to Thailand at open border crossings like Poipet, there are many people who just walk through open fields,” he said. “It is often difficult for them to cross through legal means and sometimes they don’t want to wait at the border crossings.”


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