The Thai Embassy has issued a statement denying local newspaper reports that Thai soldiers colluding with drug smugglers had shot a Cambodian national to death last week in Sakeo province, Thailand.
Initial reports stated that Cambodian Hel Touch, 31, had been shot to death after he threw a grenade at the soldiers during a dispute over smuggled drugs and motorbikes.
Several Cambodian newspapers also claimed that Hel Touch, and two Cambodian nationals who were with him, had been shot at by soldiers that were trying to extort bribes from the men.
According to the Tuesday statement by the Thai Embassy, the incident happened after a sting operation involving Thai soldiers trying to arrest a group of Cambodian drug smugglers turned violent.
“One of the three [Cambodian] men tried to throw a grenade, but it slipped from his hand and exploded, killing him and injuring three Thai soldiers,” the embassy said in the statement.
“This [incident] was not a conflict of interest over smuggling drugs or motorbikes as was reported in Cambodia,” the statement added.
However, reports from the Cambodian officials differed on the specific sequence of events last week, but agreed on the point that Hel Touch had definitely been shot.
“He was shot during an armed confrontation, but I do not know who had the guns and who had the grenades,” Banteay Meanchey Deputy Provincial Governor Sok Sareth said.
Banteay Meanchey province border cooperation military commander Sok Pheap said the grenade that had caused the incident had belonged to the Thai soldiers trying to make the arrest.
“When they were negotiating [Hel Touch and the other two] tried to grab at the grenade and it exploded,” he said. “The Thais then shot Hel Touch to death.”
However, provincial police chief Hun Hean said Wednesday that he had filed a report based on the testimony of Pov Veat, 27, one of Hel Touch’s accomplices. According to Hun Hean, Pov Veat claimed that Hel Touch had thrown the grenade.
A third Cambodian involved in the incident, Seng Song, is still at large, he said.