A local rights group that last week published witness reports claiming that nine Cambodians were shot dead by the Thai military said Tuesday it has lost contact with the witnesses.
Last Wednesday, Adhoc said in a statement that it was “gravely concerned at witness reports to ADHOC investigators of the killing of up to nine Cambodian migrants…by the Thai armed forces as part of the Thai military junta’s campaign to expel illegal migrants working in the country.”
On Tuesday, however, Adhoc president Thun Saray said the three witnesses had fallen off the radar.
“They have traveled to their home provinces and they had no SIM cards so it is very difficult to stay in contact,” Mr. Saray said.
“Also, some of them, they want to go back to Thailand so they don’t want this story to be exposed.”
More than 150,000 Cambodians have fled across the border from Thailand since the military took control in late May.
While no victims of violence at the hands of the junta have come forward, the Cambodian Red Cross reported Tuesday that it had also heard of migrants facing off with soldiers.
Oy Sam Ath, the CRC’s disaster management director, said that after Cambodians began to flee Thailand, some factory owners held staff against their will.
“From time to time, the Thai military randomly checks the factories for Cambodian workers and forces them to leave,” Mr. Sam Ath said.
“This is when they fight. I don’t know about the injuries to Cambodian workers, but they do fight.”
Pakdi Touchayoot, the Thai ambassador to Cambodia, said he is awaiting a detailed report from Adhoc before taking further action.
“I checked with Thai authorities and there is no reports of that [nine deaths],” Mr. Touchayoot said. He added that a detailed report from Adhoc would help him refine his investigation into the reported deaths.
As for reports that Cambodian workers being held at factories were rounded up by the military, Mr. Touchayoot said: “We do not do that. The Cambodian workers are essential to the Thai economy.”
Mr. Saray said that Adhoc would lodge a full report, with audio from the witnesses, whether they were found or not.
“We do not want to create problems between the two nations but these are the statements of the witnesses,” Mr. Saray said.
“And in the statement, we do not confirm that it happened, we just said that we received this information from the witnesses.”