Logging Body Count Doubted
In the past year, just one Cambodian logger has been killed by Thai security forces after illegally crossing the border from Oddar Meanchey province in search of luxury rosewood, according to a provincial police report that was released this week, which directly contradicts the findings of a local rights group.
According to the report, which was sent to the Ministry of Interior on Monday and obtained by the Post yesterday, between November 2013 and November 2014 Thai soldiers opened fire six times on Cambodian loggers, killing one woman and injuring five other people.
A further 45 loggers were arrested over the 12 month period, the report says.
“The provincial authorities had tried to prevent them from illegally crossing to log the rosewood,” it adds.
But Srey Naren, the provincial coordinator for local rights group Adhoc, said the official count does not represent the true scale of fatalities incurred on the popular logging route.
Naren said that eight Cambodian loggers were in fact killed over the 12-month period.
He added that this still marked an improvement on previous years.
The fatalities have “dramatically decreased because people in the province have stopped going to log”, he said.
Suon Rithy, a former logger based in the province’s Trapaing Prasat district, agreed.
“We used to go logging . . . but now we do not dare because there are way too many deaths and arrests. Most of the people who go logging come from other provinces, not from Oddar Meanchey,” he said.
Thailand’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs did not respond to requests for comment yesterday, but said in September that throughout 2014 no Cambodian nationals had been harmed after illegally crossing the border.
During a state visit last week, Thailand’s Minister of Defence Prawit Wongsuwan admitted that shootings happen, but said they were unintentional.
The Oddar Meanchey figures will form part of a countrywide report expected to be released by the Ministry of Interior early next year. The Ministry has previously reported that 69 loggers were shot dead in 2013.