Thais Told: Stop Border Shootings

Cheang Sokha and Ban Sokrith / Khmer Times No Comments Share:
Royal Thai Army commander-in-chief General Chalermchai Sittisad (left) and Cambodia’s Defense Minister General Tea Banh yesterday. KT/Chor Sokunthea

Senior officials in the Cambodian army yesterday called on their Thai counterparts to stop their units from opening fire on Cambodians crossing the border illegally, urging their neighbors to show “humanity” during military meetings yesterday.
 
Royal Cambodian Armed Forces commander-in-chief General Pol Saroeun met with Royal Thai Army commander-in-chief General Chalermchai Sitthisad yesterday and discussed a variety of issues between both countries.
 
But Gen. Saroeun made a point of highlighting the disputes Cambodia has with Thailand over their shared border and the enforcement techniques used by their neighbors.
 
Dozens of Cambodians are shot and killed every year while trying to cross illegally into Thailand in search of employment, usually in Thai factories, or for illegal logging.
 
Last month, two men were shot while trying to cross back into Cambodia. They were forced to continue their journey
 
while bleeding from bullet wounds and eventually received treatment once they reentered Cambodia.
 
During the meeting yesterday, the generals discussed ways they can develop provinces along the border to slow the stream of Cambodians who cross over to work every day.
 
Despite declarations of peace by both sides and improving relations, Gen. Saroeun said: “The Thai side has to respect the national and international rules, humanity and law by avoiding the use of weapons to attack Cambodian people who go illegally into Thai territory.
 
“They should do things in accordance with the humanitarian principles of their country.”
 
Over the last five years, a game of cat and mouse has played out along the 800km Cambodia-Thai border in the north-west of the country.
 
This has resulted in the deaths of at least 143 Cambodians and another several hundred more who have been seriously injured from gunshot wounds inflicted by the Thai military.
 
Nai Vongda, deputy head of investigation at rights group Adhoc, said last year Thailand was “supposed to be a modern civilized country” yet were often harsh when dealing with Cambodians who were caught entering Thailand illegally.
 
“At all the national and regional forums, we have deeply condemned Thai soldiers over their inhumane actions in killing our peasant people. It’s a killing machine,” Mr. Vongda said.
 
But Gen. Sitthisad pledged to preserve the peace that has largely held up since the two sides fought between 2008 and 2013 over control of the Preah Vihear Temple, which is on the northern border.  
 
“The Cambodian and Thai armies understand each other more by standing under the policies of the two countries’ governments, which maintains security, peace and development of the border for the benefit of the people of both countries,” he said.
 
Gen. Sitthisad also met with Defense Minister General Tea Banh and discussed the drug trade, terrorism and the internal politics of both countries.
 
“Thailand is still concerned with terrorism and the drug trade, which is still flowing into Thailand. Authorities on the border are working hard to curb this,” Gen. Sitthisad told Gen. Banh.
 
Gen. Banh said the issue of the drug trade was “complicated” because Cambodia is not where the narcotics are generally produced. Drugs are only trafficked into Cambodia and then on to other countries in the region, he said.
 
Gen. Banh also had harsh words for critics of the government during his discussion of the Kingdom’s internal politics.
 
He justified the government’s often heavy-handed response to protests by saying citizens should enjoy the rights they have instead of complaining about rights they do not have.
 
“They have the full right to do whatever they want but they still claim we bar their freedom of speech,” he said. “The control of the flow of philosophy from outsiders has to be strict.”

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