Two Cambodians Die En Route to the Border

Cambodians immigrants in Sa Kaeo province prepare to cross the border to return to Cambodia, 15 June 2014.

CHONBURI — Two Cambodian immigrants were killed in a car accident near the Thai-Cambodian border after a Thai police volunteer shot out one of their vehicle's tires.

The truck was found overturned on Prokfa-Pluakdang Road in Chonburi province on Sunday. Rescue workers found a dozen Cambodian immigrants lying injured on the road when they arrived at the scene, police say. Two immigrants died of their injuries. 

The pick-up truck, carrying a dozen Cambodian nationals, drove through a checkpoint in Chonburi on its way to the border in  Sa Kaeo province. An armed police volunteer nearby the checkpoint reportedly shouted at the vehicle to stop and chased after the truck when the driver refused.

The police volunteer, Sombat Daan, followed the truck for about five kilometres and fired several shots at the vehicle. One bullet struck an 11-year-old Thai girl in front of a grocery store, wounding her in the left arm. The girl was later sent to hospital where she recovered from her injuries, said her father, Manit Soipetch. 

Another bullet struck one of the truck's tires, causing the vehicle to spin out of control and flip over, killing two passengers. 

Mr. Sombat was arrested yesterday and confessed to firing three rounds at the truck in effort to stop the vehicle. He has been charged with committing reckless actions leading to injuries and deaths, carrying a firearm without permit, carrying a firearm into residential area without permit, and discharging the firearm without due cause.

Pol.Maj.Gen. Sanit Mahathaworn said the police promptly arrested Mr. Sombat to express their sincerity towards the Cambodian immigrants.

"We want to stress that the rumour among immigrants that police and troops are using violence against the immigrants is completely untrue," Pol.Maj.Gen. Sanit said. "This case was caused by a police volunteer who tried to arrest suspects and resorted to a disproportionate action. The police do not condone this action."

The incident took place amid a mass exodus of Cambodian immigrants who have been fleeing the country in droves out of the fear that Thailand’s military junta is prepared to launch a harsh crackdown on alien workers. 

Officials say more than 160,000 Cambodian workers have left Thailand in the past week alone. Human rights groups have accused Thai authorities of intimidating the immigrants and coercing them to leave the country.

However, the military junta's National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) has steadfastly denied that there has been any effort to drive the immigrants away. An NCPO spokesperson, Col. Winthai Suvaree, blamed the situation on "misunderstanding." 

The NCPO only intends to reform and regulate the system of migrant workers in Thailand to solve the problem of illegal immigrants, Col. Winthai said.

The NCPO issued an announcement today, demanding that “every bureaucratic agency must strictly enforce the laws to crack down on human traffickers and smugglers that ferry illegal immigrants into the country.”

Thailand has a total of 2.23 million migrant workers sustaining its economy, 1.82 million of whom entered the country illegally, said Thanit Noomnoi, deputy director of the Ministry of Labour’s Department of Employment.

Mr.  Thanit also offered another explanation for the mass exodus of Cambodians. He suggested that hundreds of thousands of immigrants are simply heading home in time for rainy season.

"It's rainy season right now, so they have to go back and help their families in the rice field," Mr. Thanit said. 

He also dismissed concerns that Thailand will suffer labour shortage in the near future. 

 

 
 
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