Thai soldiers shot and killed three Cambodian loggers and seriously injured a fourth last week after the group illegally crossed into Thailand from Preah Vihear province in search of valuable timber, officials said Wednesday.
Chhour Bunsong, military police commander in Preah Vihear’s Choam Ksan district, which borders Thailand’s Ubon Ratchathani province, said residents of Choam Ksan commune’s remote Chhoeu Tel Kong village reported the shooting Friday morning.
“We heard they were shot and killed by Thai soldiers…on the night of February 5,” Mr. Bunsong said, adding that he dispatched officers to the village on Friday to find out more details.
Choam Ksan district governor Chea Kimseng identified the injured man as Chhour Bie, 33, a resident of Chhoeu Tel Kong village. Mr. Kimseng said Mr. Bie remained in critical condition at the Siem Reap City referral hospital, but that he did not know the extent of the man’s injuries.
Mr. Kimseng identified two of the men killed as Kiet Yet, 39, also from Chhoeu Tel Kong village and Koeu Dina, 28, from Kompong Speu province. The third victim could only be identified as Tha, 32, from Kampot province, he said.
The district governor said a middleman offered the men money to cross the border and bring back luxury-grade rosewood.
“But they got shot and killed by Thai soldiers,” he said. “Now I am asking the Thai soldiers at the border for permission to take the dead bodies to the victims’ families.”
Chorn Sam Ol, deputy chief of the provincial police’s information bureau, said that on February 5, Thai soldiers at the An Ses international checkpoint released 10 Cambodians who were arrested on January 8 for illegally crossing the border.
“But at around 1:30 p.m. on the same day, there were 13 other villagers who snuck into the Thai forest to cut rosewood,” Mr. Sam Ol said.
“Then Thai solders fired on them and killed three men and injured one other,” he added. “The others fled back to Cambodian soil.”
Lor Chan, provincial coordinator for rights group Adhoc, said he had heard about the shooting, but had not yet reached Chhoeu Tel Kong village.
“That area is very remote,” Mr. Chan said. “There is no phone service. If villagers want to contact someone, they need to climb a tree to call.”
Foreign Affairs Ministry spokesman Koy Kuong could not be reached.
The Interior Ministry reported last month that 11 people had been killed and 34 injured in 16 separate shooting incidents along the Thai border last year.
Adhoc, which also monitors shootings along the border, recorded 26 deaths and 18 injuries in 2014.
In high-level diplomatic meetings, Cambodian government officials have repeatedly urged their Thai counterparts to ensure that Thai soldiers arrest, rather than shoot at, loggers.
Following a meeting of the countries’ General Border Committee in December, Thai Defense Minister Prawit Wongsuwan said greater cooperation between the two countries was needed to avoid shooting deaths along the border.
“Thailand does not intentionally shoot Cambodian people, but there is confusion and we need to work together to resolve these issues,” General Prawit said at the time.