thmar pouk referral hospital, Thmar Pouk district, Banteay Meanchey province – Two witnesses from the scene of a recent shooting near the border Tuesday said Thai border police shot a Cambodian after he had been wounded by a land mine while illegally crossing the border.
The two witnesses, who were both wounded when the land mine exploded five meters from the Cambodian border on the Thai side, spoke separately at the Thmar Pouk hospital in Banteay Meanchey where they are recovering from their wounds.
Rorn Ream, 19, said he was part of a group of 18 Cambodians sneaking over the border late Thursday night to look for work. Just after the group had crossed into Thailand, one of the Cambodians stepped on a land mine, detonating it and sending the group into a panic, he said.
All but three of the Cambodians fled into the nearby woods and Thai border police arrived on the scene in less than two minutes, Rorn Ream said. He said that two of the three Cambodians left at the scene were most likely dead, while the third was so badly wounded he could not move.
Rorn Ream, who said he was hiding in the woods about four meters from the police, said the Thai police surround the land mine victims and fired three rounds into the Cambodian who was still alive.
Choun Choeun, 21, was also crossing the border with the group Thursday night when the Thai police shot the Cambodian. After the land mine exploded, she ran about 80 meters from the scene and hid in some bushes while the Thai police were driving to the scene, she said.
The Thai border police converged and three shots fired then rang out, Choun Choeun said. She did not know which of the Cambodians was hit by the bullets, but was certain the Thai police shot one of them.
“I was not far away,” said Choun Choeun, who suffered injuries to her back and leg. “I saw the Thai soldiers stand at the place where the three bodies were and then they shot at them. I heard three shots.”
Officials at the border, however, disagree with Rorn Roeun and Choun Choeun’s account of the shooting. Major Khatha Sokhun of the Cambodian Immigration Police said the Thai border police denied shooting in the direction of any of the Cambodians.
Speaking from a small border outpost in Boeng Trakuon border crossing at the Cambodian-Thai border, Khatha Sokhun said Thai authorities claim they were investigating the land mine explosion when they saw the Cambodians running away.
He said the Thai police told him that they fired “around 20 rounds” into the air to stop the Cambodians from going further into Thai territory.
Earlier this week, Colonel Weerasak Lomwong said Thai officials would not shoot at Cambodians who were in Thailand illegally.
A Thai Embassy official in Phnom Penh said he wasn’t aware of reports that a Thai soldier shot at the Cambodians and that there was conflicting information about the incident.
“I haven’t heard anything from Bangkok. It seems the sources are in conflict. The local newspaper reported that there were 18 Cambodians who went to Thailand to seek jobs…and the Thai authorities were trying to arrest them and they were running away and some of them stepped on the land mine. This matter still needs to be investigated into. So I cannot tell you any confirmation right now because I haven’t got the information,” the official said.
While Rorn Roeun and Choun Choeun were the only witnesses to the shooting found in Thmar Pouk district, Tien Boeb, another Cambodian injured when the land mine exploded, was also at the hospital. She said she was running away from the Thai authorities when she heard three shots.
The three Cambodians reported to be dead were identified by Banteay Meanchey Deputy Police Chief Voung Thy as Chhoeung Chlay, 20, Thean Thoeun, 21 and Thiek Tik, 27. Their bodies reportedly were taken by their families to Kuok village in Banteay Meanchey.
One person who was reported to be seriously wounded was taken to Mongkul Borei hospital. Choub Chay, 19, who was also wounded by the land mine, is missing but is thought to be in a Thai hospital.