Cambodia boosts border troops to stop civilians entering Thailand

Phnom Penh - The Cambodian military has stationed extra troops in a western border province to prevent people from crossing illegally into Thailand to fell trees, local media reported Friday. A senior military officer in Oddar Meanchey province told the Phnom Penh Post newspaper the move came after a four-month period in which a number of Cambodian civilians had been shot, allegedly by Thai troops, after crossing illegally into Thailand to fell trees.

"We took this measure because we don't want to see Cambodian people shot or arrested and sent to Thai prisons," said Nuon Nov, a regional deputy military commander.

Poverty is widespread in Cambodia and drives thousands to work in Thailand, often illegally, to earn money for their families back home.

In the most infamous case, a 16-year-old died in September after he was shot and wounded, then allegedly tied to an ox-cart while alive and burned to death by Thai soldiers. The Thai government later insisted the teenager had already died from gunshot wounds when troops burned his body.

Nuon Nov said troop numbers were bolstered this week and on the first day alone 60 civilians had been stopped from crossing the border.

"We brought these people back to be re-educated [about the dangers], and we also punished them to dig trenches for one week," he said. "Otherwise, they will not be afraid."

Last month, the Cambodian government instructed provincial authorities to do more to stop people crossing illegally into Thailand.

The relationship between the two nations has been tense for more than a year with a number of clashes reported between troops from both countries over a disputed piece of land near the Preah Vihear temple in northern Cambodia.

Ties worsened late last year when Cambodia appointed Thailand's fugitive former premier Thaksin Shinawatra as an adviser to the government.

Copyright DPA

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