One Wounded and 11 More Cambodians Unaccounted for in latest Border Shooting

A Cambodian man was shot yesterday after Thai forces along the border with Oddar Meanchey province reportedly opened fire on a group of Cambodians after they crossed into Thailand to engage in illegal logging, Cambodian officials said.

Provincial cabinet Secretary-General Chhim Savuth said 22-year-old Ly Kleng was hit once in his right arm and grazed by a bullet on his back at about 5:30 am when the group of a dozen men from Samraong city’s O’Smach commune was spotted by Thai authorities inside Thai territory.

Ms Savuth said it is believed that the 11 other Cambodian men, traveling with Mr Kleng in search of trees to fell, fled back into Cambodia when the shooting started, although he admitted their whereabouts were not yet known.

“We used to educate or explain to them that it is dangerous when they illegally cross the border and we told them to stop,” Mr Savuth said of people who still dare to cross the frontier illegally.

Chief of police at the O’Smach International Border Checkpoint Nanh Sovann said he was aware of the shooting but was awaiting confirmation from Thai officials.

Srey Naren, Adhoc provincial coordinator, said Mr Kleng was currently recovering from his wounds at a local hospital. He said most Cambodians cross the border to carry out work for local businessmen despite the dangers.

“Authorities should stop the local businesses and create more jobs for them to do in Cambodia,” he said.

The latest shooting follows reports of Thai and Cambodian forces exchanging gunfire twice in the last month and of Thai border authorities detaining or shooting Cambodians in the past several months who have crossed the border either to search for work or illegally cut down trees.

John McGeoghan, project manager for the International Office for Migration, said it is likely that Cambodians in border areas have undertaken short crossings into Thailand for years for work or foraging in border forests.

Mr McGeoghan said that although his agency has little data on the situation along the Thai-Cambodia border, Cambodia’s diplomatic troubles with Thailand could be causing a renewed focus by authorities on the illegal passages across the border.

“You have to put these [incidents] in that context,” he said. “For most people in the rural areas a walk into Thailand is a walk down a dusty path.”

            (Additional reporting by Frank Radosevich)


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