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Cambodians held in Thai forest

Khy Sovuthy / Khmer Times Share:
The workers allegedly fell trees in Thailand. CEN

Eighteen workers were reportedly arrested while they used equipment to cut down rosewood trees in a national park in north-eastern Thailand last week.

According to a Xinhua report on Monday, 18 Cambodians were arrested with the equipment for logging precious rosewood trees in a national park in north-eastern Thailand.

Police reportedly said they had netted 17 Cambodians after authorities sealed off the park in Nakhon Ratchasima province on Saturday.

Police captured a Cambodian man in the same area and found a chainsaw, a home-made gun and 37 bags containing food on Saturday before they busted the other 17.

The gang members, who were believed to have crossed into Thailand in the eastern province of Chanthaburi to meet up with their handler, tried to flee deep into the forest. However, they were arrested as authorities blocked all routes out of the park.

Brigadier General Tim Sareth, acting director of RCAF Cambodia-Thailand Border Relations, said he did not yet have this information, but he would ask his officials.

“However, since January, some of our people were arrested when they entered to cut logs in Thailand but I don’t remember the number because I don’t have the documents in hand,” he said.

Colonel Kong Sokhann, chief of Border Battalion Police 702 in charge of the area along the border of Oddar Meanchey province, could not be reached for comment yesterday.

However, he responded in a Facebook account on February 15 to a local newspaper online post that he helped coordinate Cambodian people go to cut logs inside Thailand.

He denied the accusation and requested a correction from the newspaper because it affected his reputation and his unit.

Col Sokhann said the opposite was true. He cooperated with relevant authority patrols along the border and protected against crime along the border, especially poaching precious logs in Thailand.

“Last year, we cracked down and prevented people from crossing the border illegally twice and educated 11 people and confiscated 13 pieces of logs, three chainsaws, axes and other equipment,” Col Sokhann said.

“Even when we have worked hard to disseminate the information to them, some people who are poor still secretly enter Thailand to cut logs.”

Major General Men Ly, Oddar Meanchey provincial police chief, was not available to take calls yesterday.

Srey Naren, coordinator of human right Adhoc in Oddar Meanchey province, said he had no information about the 18 Cambodians arrested by Thai authorities but would find out.

“Since January, I have heard eight Cambodian people were arrested by Thai authorities after they illegally entered to cut logs in Thailand.”

“Since 2011 until now, hundreds of Cambodian people in Oddar Meanchey province have been shot dead by Thai authorities,” Mr Naren said.

“I still urge Cambodian authorities to prevent or ban them from entering to cut logs in Thailand because it is very risky.”

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