Three Cambodian men arrested in Thailand last week were returned to Preah Vihear province on Monday and claim they were tortured by the Thai military before being released, according to a military colonel in the area who provided a video of the men’s accounts.
The three men were handed over to Cambodian authorities at the An Ses border crossing, said Choam Ksan district Governor Chea Kimseng.
“[Monday] at 11:30 a.m., we received three of our villagers from the Thai authorities,” Mr. Kimseng said.
According to a Royal Cambodian Armed Forces (RCAF) colonel stationed at the border, the three men said they were arrested in Thailand on Thursday while searching for wild vegetables.
The colonel, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he is not authorized to speak with the media, said the men told him that Thai soldiers persuaded one of the men to admit he was a Cambodian soldier in order to expedite his transfer back home.
But once he confessed, the colonel said, the Thai soldiers tortured them to get information about the location of Cambodian military troops and supplies.
“The Thai soldiers used pliers to pull out both of his big toenails in order to extract a confession,” the colonel said.
In a video provided by the RCAF colonel, two men say they are among the three returned from Thailand and go on to describe their experiences.
“The Thai soldiers hit my mouth with a belt and they stepped on [my feet] and pulled [my toenails] out using pliers,” one of the men says, without giving his name.
As the man speaks, the camera pans down to show the nails from both of his big toes are missing.
Mr. Kimseng, however, said the man with the missing toenails told him a completely different story.
“When I went to meet and talk with him, he told me his toenails were injured after he smashed them against a rock while trying to avoid arrest by the Thai soldiers,” Mr. Kimseng said, declining to name any of the three men.
Another man in the video, identified as Srey Sareth, 36, says he was returned with the three but had crossed the border with six other accomplices in search of luxury rosewood.
“We went into the Thai forest for five days,” Mr. Sareth says. “But only I was arrested.”
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