Thai soldiers last week arrested a Cambodian man suspected of illegal logging across the Thai border, while his two accomplices have been missing for 10 days, police said Monday.
Ek Vichay, 29, was arrested by Thai soldiers, according Suy Seng, police chief in Oddar Meanchey province’s Anlong Veng district, while Heng Hong, 32, and Ya Um, 44, are missing and feared dead by their families.
Sometime in February, the three packed up and moved to Thailand, telling local police they were going to work on a cassava plantation, but Keo Tann, police chief in neighboring Trapaing Prasat district, said he did not believe that was the case because they had been seen by police traveling a route frequented by illegal loggers.
“They did not go to work at Thai cassava farms, they went into the Thai forest for illegal rosewood cutting,” Mr. Tann said.
“Our police are stationed near the border and have investigated and collected the information that they were in the Thai forest.”
According to Srey Naren, provincial coordinator in Oddar Meanchey for rights group Adhoc, the families of the missing men had since crossed the border to look for their lost breadwinners, checking hospitals and prisons to no avail.
“They [the families] suspect that those two were shot to death,” Mr. Naren said.
According to Adhoc records, 38 men were shot and killed by Thai soldiers when crossing the border in search of valuable rosewood in 2013, while five have been confirmed killed in the first two months of 2014.
The Ministry of Interior, however, in a February 18 report on the situation at Cambodia’s borders, delivered different figures, suggesting that the number killed by Thai soldiers was far greater.
The ministry’s report counted 729 incidences of “irregular activity” at the Thai-Cambodian border—an increase of 151 on 2012 —which resulted in the shooting deaths of 69 Cambodians and the arrest of 165 more.
(Additional reporting by Khy Sovuthy)