Thai soldiers shot a Cambodian man dead after he threw a grenade at them during a drug deal gone wrong in Thailand’s Sakeo province, Banteay Meanchey provincial authorities claimed Thursday.
The victim, Hel Touch, 31, and two Cambodians ventured across the Thai border Tuesday night, smuggling 20,000 methamphetamine pills and several motorbikes they planned to sell to Thai soldiers, Banteay Meanchey provincial police chief Hun Hean claimed.
Things allegedly heated up when the Cambodians exchanged money with three Thai soldiers, Hun Hean said.
“They accused and suspected each other of cheating, and the Thai soldiers pointed guns at the victim,” he said.
Hel Touch reacted by lobbing a grenade whose explosion injured him and the three soldiers, Hun Hean said, prompting the two least-injured Thai soldiers to open fire in return.
Hel Touch was killed, but his companions, Pov Vart, 27, and Seng Song, 30, escaped and made it back to Cambodian soil, Hun Hean said. Pov Vart was arrested Wednesday and has confessed to smuggling motorbikes but not drugs, he said, adding that Seng Song is still at large.
Officials at the Thai Embassy in Phnom Penh could not be reached for comment Thursday.
Banteay Meanchey Deputy Governor Sok Sareth said that illegal border crossings are a common problem in the province, but it’s usually migrant workers who are simply unaware of the law.
“Sometimes they cross the border illegally to work or smuggle motorbikes, and I usually educate them on how to cross the border [legally],” he said.
Sok Sareth added that he has requested Thai officials’ assistance in retrieving Hel Touch’s body.
Soum Chan Kar, provincial representative of local rights group Adhoc, called for better border control to prevent smuggling and violence.
“I request that both governments investigate the suspects involved in this case,” he said.