Thirteen Cambodian prisoners who were released by Thai authorities on Saturday are now placed under quarantine in Oddar Meanchey province.
The prisoners were deported to the Kingdom via the Cambodia-Thai border after they served their sentence for illegally crossing the border to cut rosewood.
Major Keo Sambath, deputy chief of Immigration Police Office at Choam International Checkpoint in Oddar Meanchey province, told Khmer Times yesterday that the 13 Cambodians were convicted by the Thai court to two years imprisonment for “entering Thailand without authorisation and cutting rosewood trees in the Sisaket province.
Maj Sambath said the men were all farmers and five of them are from Oddar Meanchey province’s Trapaing Prasat district who were arrested by Thai soldiers on October 6, 2019 after they crossed the border to cut trees on Dangrek Mountain located in Thailand’s Sisaket province.
He said that the other eight men from Kampong Cham and Preah Vihear provinces were arrested by Thai soldiers on July 27, 2019 in Dangrek Mountain at a location inside Thai territory.
Maj Sambath said when the Thai officials handed the men over to the the provincial health officials their temperatures were taken before they were transported to the quarantine centre at the Anlong Veng Primary School for 14 days.
“They will be released from the centre to go to their homes after they have completed the quarantine period and their COVID-19 swab tests are negative,” he said.
Srey Naren, coordinator for the human right’s group Adhoc based in Oddar Meanchey province, said that they have yet to receive details of the men’s arrest by the Thai soliders in 2019.
According to Adhoc’s observation in recent years, he said most of the Cambodians arrested by Thai solders are from different provinces in the Kingdom.
“We have always received information after those arrested are released from prison and are scheduled for deportation to the Kingdom,” Naren added.
He said his modus operandi was to meet and interview the released prisoners who are detained and imprisoned for illegally crossing the border to cut trees in Thailand.
He added they are normally found guilty and sentenced to between two to seven years depending on the crime committed and how serious is the offence.
“For those who just go to work as labourers or carry wood, they are sentenced to two years in prison if found guilty by the Thai court, while those who have a lot of tools to cut down trees or destroy forests or have a lot of evidence confiscated by the Thai authorities, end up with a seven year jail sentence,” he added.
Naren said the reason why Cambodians take the risk of entering Thailand illegally to cut rosewood is due to them doing odd jobs with very little income.
“When they cannot get enough money to sustain themselves and their families, they resort to this illegal activity,” he added
He said that the area where Cambodian labourers go to cut rosewood is mountainous and it is difficult to gain entry without obtaining permission of the Cambodian border authorities.
“It is difficut for them to cross the border or climb the mountain without getting the permission of the Cambodian border authorities,” he said, adding that there have been allegations of some authorities taking bribes from these men to cross over.
“Currently, the biggest challenge is the COVID-19 issue. If our Cambodian people continue to cross into Thai territory, that will be a big challenge,” Naren said.
“Therefore, I urge our people to return to work in their communities or provinces and I appeal to the government to increase local employment and find markets for farmers to sell their crops and products to reduce the migration of our Cambodian workers,” he said.