Eighteen Cambodians were arrested by Thai authorities last week after being caught illegally felling Siamese rosewood trees in a Thai national park in Nakhon Ratchasima province.
A group of Thai park rangers raided the group’s operation in Thap Lan National Park and arrested them while seizing 99 planks of rosewood on Tuesday.
According to media reports, the suspects claimed they had been hired by an unnamed Thai businessman to cross into Thailand illegally and log the wood before transporting it back to Cambodia.
The operation allegedly consisted of at least 45 men, with the others still at large.
Foreign Affairs Ministry spokesman Chum Sounry could not be reached for comment yesterday.
In the past, Mr Sounry has said Thailand always cooperates and deports Cambodians when they are only caught crossing the border illegally – but almost always prosecutes them in Thailand once they commit crimes.
“In the past, they have declined to release Cambodian loggers and often find more evidence to prosecute the loggers in court,” Mr Sounry has said.
In recent years, reports of Cambodian nationals being killed, seriously injured or detained by Thai soldiers while illegally logging wood have become commonplace.
From 2010 to 2015, at least 143 Cambodians were killed by Thai soldiers, while another several hundred were seriously injured from gunshot wounds inflicted by Thai military assault rifles along the nearly 800 kilometre Cambodia-Thai border.