|Thais accused of gunning down 15 Cambodian loggers
Cambodia's military accused Thai troops of killing 15 villagers who illegally crossed the border to log for highly valued rosewood. A Thai official denied the allegation.
Twelve loggers were shot dead on March 5 – followed by three more a week later – after entering Thailand from Cambodia's northern province of Preah Vihear to cut rosewood, Cambodian military intelligence officer Preap Thoeurth said by telephone.
“Authorities have educated the people not to cross the border to log, but rosewood is very expensive,'' he said.
Pen Song, a Cambodian military commander in the province, confirmed the incidents.
“We have asked them [the Thai military] not to kill Cambodian loggers, but to arrest them or to fine them, but they still keep killing. We don't know what to do,'' he said.
But Major General Prawit Hookaew, a regional spokesman for the Thai army, rejected the accusation, saying it was “impossible'' for so many Cambodians to have been killed without a formal protest by Phnom Penh.
Rosewood fetches thousands of dollars per cubic meter and is in strong demand in China and Vietnam.
Cambodian officials, including Prime Minister Hun Sen, have repeatedly urged Thailand to arrest trespassers instead of firing at them.
Thai forces allegedly shot dead at least 69 Cambodian loggers last year for illegally crossing the border, according to information released by Cambodia's interior ministry last month.—AFP