Thailand Claims ‘Self-Defense’ In Shooting of Illegal Loggers

The Thai government has claimed that several Cambodians shot by Thai soldiers earlier this month while illegally logging in a border region provoked the situation by opening fire first on Thai forces, according to a statement from Thailand’s Ministry of For­eign Affairs.

On July 8, at least one person was killed and several others in­jured when Thai soldiers opened fire on a group of Cambodians suspected of illegal logging, officials in Oddar Meanchey pro­vince reported at the time.

According to the statement from the Thai Foreign Ministry dated Wed­nesday, a Thai border patrol con­fronted the group of Cambo­dians “with a view to searching and interrogating them.”

“However, the latter fired gunshots, which prompted the patrol unit to fire back in self defense,” the ministry added.

Spokesman for the Cambodian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Koy Kuong, said earlier this week that the Cambodian government had sent a protest notice to Thailand asking for an investigation and punishment of the soldiers in­volved in the shooting. Mr Kuong could not be contacted for comment on the statement.

Chan Soveth, a program office with local rights group Adhoc, said Thailand has had a long history of exonerating its security forces from blame in situations where Cambodians are injured and killed.

“From 2008 until now, we collect the information on the killings, never, in all these cases, are they punished,” said Mr Soveth.

Local officials in Oddar Mean­chey province this week blamed the lucrative trade in logging rosewood illegally for undermining efforts the government makes to educate villagers about the dangers of straying too near the Thai border.

“We educate them often and send them back to their homelands…. [But then] they come to my district and cross the border to Thailand, because rosewood dealers lured them with high fees,” said Sao Than, Trapaing Prasat deputy district governor.

 

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