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Alleged Laos loggers detained in Kingdom

Police in Stung Treng province detained 11 Laotian men on Wednesday as they were logging luxury wood on Cambodian territory, officials said.

Provincial police chief EK Sivandon said police had arr-ested the men when they were logging about two kilometres inside the Cambodian border at  border poles 45 and 46 in Boeung Kduoch point, in Siem Pang district’s Prek Meas commune.

Police had also confiscated four home-made tractors, one chainsaw, a motorbike and four logs of luxury wood, he said.

“Those Laotians did not lose their way. They intended to cross the border into Cambodia to cut luxury logs, because we confiscated their machines,” Ek Sivandon said.

Yesterday, police had still not provided information about the detention of the men to Lao authorities, he said, adding that the loggers were still being questioned and police would soon send legal documents to the court about their alleged crimes.

However, Stung Treng provincial governor Loy Sophat said that, in principle, Cambodia had a memorandum of understanding with Laos and both sides had agreed to negotiate with each other.

Laos’s Champasak province would be required to make an agreement with Cambodia before the 11 men were repatriated, Loy Sophat said.

“We have no case to send Laotians to a court, because Cambodia and Laos have an MOU,” he said.

On December 15, authorities in Laos’s Champasak province arrested 28 Cambodian villagers who were between two and four kilometres inside the Laos border. Later that day, Stung Treng provincial authorities began negotiating with Laotian authorities to get them back.

Loy Sophat said the two countries would negotiate individual repatriation agreements separately for each group of detainees rather than a direct exchange.

“It is a good tendency of Cambodia and Lao [relations] that they always implement negotiation to return people who cross borders illegally,”  Ho Sam Ol, provincial monitor for the human-rights group Adhoc, said.

About 70 per cent of villagers in Siem Pang district had illegally crossed the border into Laos, far more than the number of Laotians illegally entering Cambodia, he said.  

“Laotian authorities rarely shoot Cambodian people, but the Thais do. Laos fines them a small amount of money before Cambodians ask to be released,” Ho Sam Ol said.

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