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Friday, December 11, 2009

Thai soldiers again accused of shooting dead Cambodian logger

Phnom Penh - Thai troops shot dead a Cambodian man who crossed into Thailand to fell trees illegally, local media reported Friday. Phlok Lai, 55, is the third Cambodian national to be shot and killed by Thai troops in the past three months.

District police chief Keo Tann said another man in the group of 10 was seriously injured while a third is missing after the incident late Tuesday. The remaining seven made it back safely to Cambodia.

"The Thai officers at the border said they would find the missing man if we ordered people to refrain from going to Thailand to log illegally," Keo Tann told the Phnom Penh Post newspaper.

Earlier this month a Cambodian man was shot dead by Thai soldiers while illegally logging inside Thailand. In the most notorious case Thai soldiers were accused of shooting and then burning alive a 16-year-old Cambodian youth in September. Thailand denied the youth was burned alive.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Koy Kuong described the Thai soldiers' behaviour as "very cruel."

"In previous years the Thai military would just arrest our people who were illegally crossing the border and sentence them to jail," he said. "But now they are shooting our people."

Earlier this week the Cambodian government warned its citizens living along the 800-kilometre long border, much of which has yet to be officially demarcated, to avoid crossing the border into Thailand.

The shootings come at a time of heightened tensions between the two nations. Both withdrew their ambassadors last month after Cambodia appointed Thailand's fugitive former premier Thaksin Shinawatra as an adviser to the Cambodian government.

Cambodia and Thailand also have a long-standing dispute over the land surrounding the ancient Preah Vihear temple in northern Cambodia. Over the past 18 months clashes between troops at Preah Vihear have cost the lives of at least seven soldiers.

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