Thailand, Cambodia Agree to Begin Joint Border Patrols

Thailand and Cambodia agreed on Wednesday to begin joint pa­trols along their shared border in the hope of stemming the flow of illegal migrant workers and of Cambodians who sneak into Thai­lan­d to log rosewood—often with fatal consequences.

Cambodia claims that Thai forces last year shot dead 45 of its nationals who crossed the border illegally in search of the luxury timber, which can fetch thousands of dollars per cubic meter, and has often implored its neighbor to hold its fire. The pleas have done little to curb the reported shootings, though, as Thailand continues to insist that loggers who are shot are also armed and dangerous.

In the latest bilateral push to address the problem, Cambodian Foreign Affairs Ministry secretary of state Long Visalo met with Jullapong Nonsrichai, vice minister of Thailand’s Foreign Affairs Ministry, in Poipet City on Wednesday.

Mr. Visalo declined to comment on the meeting.

Royal Cambodian Armed Forces Brigadier General Pech Vanna, who heads Cambodia’s border relations office for the military and also attended the meeting, said Thursday that the two sides agreed to both the joint patrols and a joint committee to investigate any future deaths.

“We will create a commission for joint patrols along the border to prevent illegal migrant workers and Cambodians who go illegally to Thailand to cut trees,” Brig. Gen. Vanna said. “And we will create a commission to investigate the deaths of Cambodians who die in Thailand.

“We will create the commissions because a lot of our people have died,” he added. “We have asked Thai authorities for a long time to shop shooting at Cambo­dians, but it still happens.”

The plan also comes amid efforts by Cambodia to encourage more of its nationals to stay home and supply a local labor shortage rather than go after better-paid jobs in Thailand, often through illegal channels.

Brig. Gen. Vanna said the patrols would consist of both police and soldiers from both countries but had no other details. The plan would also have to be approved by both governments before taking effect, he added.

Spokesman for the Thai Foreign Affairs Ministry Manasvi Srisodapol, said he had no information about the meeting and declined to comment. Thai Ambassador Pakdi Touchayoot could not be reached.

(Additional reporting by Zsombor Peter)

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