Killing Cambodians

16 08 2012

PPT has seen this story in a couple of places, and this one not one of our usual sources, being Hardwood Floors News, which sent us back to the Bangkok Post for the story that the various Thai border forces had “shot dead 38 Cambodians in the first half of this year for [allegedly] illegally crossing the border to log for valuable timber…”. Apparently a further 10 had been wounded. The figures seem to come from “the Cambodian authorities.”

Lat year the reported number of deaths, from the same source, was “around 11 alleged Cambodian loggers were reported killed over a 12-month period…”. The border is poorly demarcated, and another source says 15 in 2011 (see below).

The report states that: “Cambodian loggers are routinely caught sneaking into Thailand, often in search of rosewood, which fetches thousands of dollars per cubic metre and is in strong demand in China and Vietnam.” Switch across to the Burma border, and it is Thais in trouble for similar encroachment, but the 92 arrested in Burma weren’t shot on sight. We can’t help wondering what the Thai Army’s role is in all of this and asking what the difference is on the two borders. Is is a business dispute on both sides?

The report cited above notes that “Cambodian officials, including Prime Minister Hun Sen, have repeatedly urged Thailand to arrest trespassers instead of firing at them, while Bangkok says its troops are acting in self-defence against armed Cambodians.” While perhaps arming encroachers on the Burma side? It is all very murky.

The Hardwood Floors story also had a link to a Cambodian human rights site that included this statement, from several months ago. In part the NGO stated:

The Cambodian Human Rights and Development Association (ADHOC) is deeply concerned about the use of disproportionate force against Cambodian citizens crossing the border to perform illicit logging activities in Thailand. Eleven Cambodian loggers have lost their lives in the last two months, in what may amount to extrajudicial killings. Cambodian authorities must urge Thailand to investigate these and previous cases and stop using disproportionate force against persons breaching logging or border crossing regulations….

ADHOC is concerned that they may have been shot on sight, which would amount to extrajudicial killings. Thai authorities did not launch thorough investigations into these and previous cases. Investigations are necessary so that the facts can be clearly established and evidence can be provided to support allegations that Thai soldiers were fired upon first and that they were acting in retaliation.

ADHOC reminds Thai authorities that they are under obligation to use a proportionate level of force to impose Thai laws and regulations. The use of fire arms is only justified as a last resort, when law enforcement officials face direct threats to their lives. The obligation to respect the right to life entails an obligation to provide law enforcement and military officials with adequate training, as well as an obligation to punish those responsible for excessive use of force. Cambodian citizens illegally crossing the border or caught performing illicit logging activities must be arrested and tried or deported to Cambodia in accordance with Thai law.

That seems reasonable. The Thai Army, though, is seldom reasonable.


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