Five Cambodians were shot dead by Thai soldiers while illegally logging across the border during the first half of the year, according to the government’s latest figures, roughly on par with last year.
The fatal shooting of illegal loggers by Thai soldiers has been a regular point of contention between the neighbors in recent years, and was among the topics discussed Tuesday during a joint border meeting between Thai and Cambodian officials in Poipet City.
Over the first six months of this year, five Cambodian loggers were shot dead, one was injured, 15 went missing, 15 were jailed and released, and 29 remained in Thai prisons, said Sao Vesna, chief liaison officer at the Poipet International Checkpoint, citing a report presented at Tuesday’s meeting.
“Most of the people who were shot at by Thai soldiers were logging rosewood in the Thai forest,” he said.
Six-month figures for 2014 were not immediately available. But according to the Interior Ministry, 11 Cambodians were killed while illegally logging in Thailand in all of last year, and 34 the year before that.
Cambodia has repeatedly urged Thailand to arrest the loggers instead of shooting them. Thailand says its soldiers only open fire in self-defense.
Rights group Adhoc said Tuesday that yet another Cambodian was killed while logging in Thailand just last week, the third logging-related shooting case this year across the border from Oddar Meanchey province.
“It is the third case of Thais shooting loggers from Oddar Meanchey province, causing four deaths, since early this year,” said Srey Narin, a local monitor for Adhoc.
Local military police said they knew nothing about the latest alleged shooting.
The loggers crossing into Thailand are on the lowest and most dangerous rung of a racket in which rosewood is harvested across the border, smuggled into Cambodia, and often shipped abroad. While the loggers can earn hundreds of dollars for a single cubic meter, the people trading it overseas can earn thousands.