Sar Kheng: Violence on Thai Border is Possible

Deputy Prime Minister Sar Kheng warned Monday of further bloodshed between Thais and Cambodians along the border if Thai authorities continue to take violent measures against illegal Cambodian migrants in their country.

Commenting on last month’s killing of two Cambodian border policemen accused of illegally entering Thailand, Sar Kheng, who is also the co-Minister of Interior, said the way Thai authorities handled the situation was “not normal.”

The two policemen, Mao Mai and Pin Samnang, were shot by Thai police on March 22 in Thailand’s Sa Kaew province, a few hundred meters from the border in Banteay Meanchey pro­vince. Thai authorities claimed they were armed and smuggling drugs, a charge the Cambodian police subsequently denied.

“The taking of human life does not compensate for accusations of drug smuggling or gun possession or illegal entry into Thailand,” Sar Kheng said. “If so, when Thais enter [Cambodia], we can accuse Thais of illegal entry or drug smuggling, or et cetera. We can do the same.”

He added that under such a policy, “when Thais enter [Cam­bodia], then we kill, and then when we enter Thailand, they kill.”

Sar Kheng said Cambodian authorities don’t shoot Thai nat­ion­als.

“Even if the Thai people enter Cambodia illegally, we don’t have to shoot or kill them. We have to bring them to court for legal prosecution. We want [Thailand] to do the same when they are Khmer people entering their country,” he said, adding that joint committees should be set up to probe the killings.

Sar Kheng, who was speaking at a temple inauguration ceremony in Banteay Meanchey’s Mongkol Borei district, was on his way to the border to investigate the killings, as well as a territorial dispute near Poipet commune that escalated into an armed standoff between Cambodian and Thai troops earlier this month.

The standoff on April 9 and April 10 occurred when Cambodian soldiers began constructing a fence on contested land along the border at Banteay Meanchey. The confrontation ended peacefully and the fence was destroyed after negotiations between officials from both sides.

But Thai soldiers have since moved 100 meters deeper into the contested “white area,” Sar Kheng said.

Though Thai and Cambodian officials maintain that relations along the border are under control, the recent flare-ups have marred the recovery from the anti-Thai riots in Phnom Penh last year.

Thai Embassy official Songchai Chaipatiyat declined to comment on Sar Kheng’s remarks Monday. But, he said, Thai and Cambodian authorities have already peacefully discussed the killings and the border dispute.

“Officials from both sides have already resolved the issue…. If we want to clarify, then it’s up to the local authorities,” he said.

Banteay Meanchey provincial governor Thach Khorn said the deputy prime minister would travel to Bangkok today for an official meeting with Thai officials about the two incidents.

Thach Khorn added that a second meeting of local authorities from Banteay Meanchey province and their counterparts from Thailand’s Sa Kaew province would be held Wednesday in Poipet.

(Additional reporting by Wency Leung)

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