His memory isn’t clear—he is still recovering from the wounds. But Hak Pov says he knows this much: All 25 of his neighbors who were pushing a stolen pickup truck across the muddy border at Thailand were unarmed when the mine exploded.
“They were all empty-handed and unarmed,” he said in account corroborated by two fellow land mine victims.
His account differs from the official version of events from Bangkok, but both sides agree on what happened next. Ten minutes after the explosion in the early morning hours Tuesday, Thai soldiers swooped down in an armored car and opened fire on the group.
A chase that lasted through most of the morning followed. When it was over, at least five Cambodians were dead.
The Thais claim the border-crossers were all armed and the dead were killed in a firefight—outraging Hak Pov, who was one of five victims of the land mine explosions taken to a Banteay Meanchey province hospital.
“I really wonder why they were miserably shot dead…when I know all of us had nothing in our hands,” the 33-year-old coal salesman said in a phone interview from his hospital bed.
Several days after the incident along the border, reports continue to conflict.
The Thais told Kyodo news Wednesday they shot five armed Cambodians dead in “an exchange of fire,” while O’Chrou district Police Chief Nut Ly said at least six Cambodians are dead and eight others wounded from the land mine and the shooters.
To Hak Pov, wounded with shrapnel in both thighs and the abdomen, the incident was nothing short of murder.
“I lay wounded in a Khmer village near the border and I listened to the gunfire, but there was only one side I could hear shooting,” he said. “I think the Khmer workers got hit during the explosion and Thai police arrived, shot them dead and put the weapons near them before the [television reporters] showed up to show we are all thieves.”