Thai PM Rips Khmer Papers Over Reports

Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra on Monday accused Cambodian newspapers of trying to stoke tension between the two countries by running false stories about Thai soldiers killing Cam­bo­dians on the border, Thai news­­papers reported on Tues­day.

It was unclear what killings Thaksin was referring to, but lo­cal newspapers have reported in recent days claims by Cam­bodian police that Thai forces shot a man dead in Battambang province on May 17.

“The reports about Thai soldiers shooting Cambodians [are] not true,” the Bangkok Post quoted Thaksin as say­ing.

“Cambodian media which re­port false stories are useless news­papers. They report the sensational stories with the aim of creating a sense of nationalism and causing the conflict between the two countries,” Thaksin told reporters before leaving Thailand for South Korea, according to the Bangkok Post.

The Thai Embassy said Mon­­day that it could not comment on the latest reported killing at the border.

Doung Sarom, Deputy police chief of Battambang province’s Kamrieng district, where a Cam­bodian man, Pet Den, was re­portedly killed on May 17, re­ported Tuesday that Thai soldiers shot the victim.

Doung Sarom said Pet Den, 43, was being chased by Thai troops back across the Cambodian border when he was shot.

He had crossed the border at an earlier point to work illegally in Thailand, the deputy police chief said.

Pet Den was with three friends who saw the incident and survived, Doung Sarom added.

Police in Kamrieng district on Friday reported an entirely different story regarding Pet Den’s death.

Deputy district police Chief Nol Sok claimed that Pet Den was shot dead by Thai soldiers while he was taking a bath in a ri­ver some 500 meters from his village.

Information Minister Khieu Kan­harith was too busy to speak to a reporter on Tuesday.

Newspaper editors who ran the story stood by their reports on Tuesday.

“Should we keep quiet when a Thai kills a Cambodian?” Pen Sa­mithi, editor-in-chief of the Khmer­-lan­­guage newspaper Ras­mei Kampuchea said, adding that the decision to run the story was not an expression of hatred towards the Thais.

Man Bunthoeun, editor-in-chief of the little-known Sahasawath Thmei, said the Thai prime minister “should try and catch” the Thai soldiers who allegedly killed Pet Den and not blame the Cam­bodian media.

Rights workers said Tuesday that they have received previous re­ports of Thai forces killing Cambodians near the border.

“We have received reports of Thai [officials] wounding and shooting Cambodians along the border around Poipet, Anlong Veng and Koh Kong,” said Naly Pi­lorge, director of local rights group Licadho.

She declined to say how many re­ports Licadho has received, or when they were received, but urged Cambodian and Thai au­thor­ities to cooperate in their in­vestigations.

This is not the first time that Cambodian newspapers have been accused of stirring up anti-Thai sentiment.

Before the Jan 29, 2003, anti-Thai riots, the Khmer language press ran unsubstantiated reports that a Thai actress had claimed that Angkor Wat belonged to Thai­land.

The unsubstantiated report was broadcast on national radio and in the Khmer-language Koh Santepheap and Kampuchea Thmey Daily newspapers.

Prime Minister Hun Sen also railed against the actress in a ra­dio broadcast that has been partially blamed for igniting the riots.

Thai Ambassador Piyawat Ni­yom­rerks said Tuesday that he did not feel the Cambodian media was generating anti-Thai sentiment, adding that relations be­tween the two countries re­main “very good.”

“They enjoy freedom of speech in this country, and people can judge for themselves” about the ac­­curacy of the reporting, he said.

Piyawat Niyomrerks said he did not know whether Thai soldiers ever kill Cambodians and was not in a position to comment on Pet Den’s death.

“In times of peace, I don’t think that people, in uniform or not, should kill each other,” he added.

Thai police are investigating the kil­lings of five Cambodian mi­grant workers in Thailand earlier this month, he said.

Police “are doing their work…

the same as if they were working on the deaths of Thai nationals,” he said.

 

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