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Errant border cops returned

Lao authorities have released four Cambodian border police officers who were detained earlier this month after accidentally wandering across the border to gather wood for the construction of a new guard station, officials said yesterday.

The four men – Sao Sopheap, Yem Chanthou, Say Sath and Yin Sokhan – were released Tuesday evening after negotiations and a one-time payment.

“We sent 1.4 million riel [US$350] to the Lao authorities for returning these policemen,” said Stung Treng provincial deputy police chief Ek Sivandon. “It is not money for fine, but they said the money for services such as transportation, food and protection security.”

These incidents are not rare.

In late April, Laos returned more than a dozen Cambodians who were caught logging. Also in April, Cambodia repatriated three Laotians accused of crossing the border to hunt wildlife.

The four police officers repatriated on Tuesday claimed their aims were more basic.

New on the job and wanting to establish a presence in the area, the policemen headed out on July 7 to look for timber with which to build a new station, then unknowingly cut down two trees that stood about 100 metres inside Lao territory.

Sivandon said that Laos authorities immediately de­tained the four and kept them in a local border police station.

“I asked them about their living conditions while detained. They said they stayed in a room with a good sleeping setup and a toilet, but they lacked food to eat. [The Laotians] did not torture them or do anything bad to them,” he said, adding that their health is good.

He said that next week, he will order his officials to watch along the border to avoid a repeat occurrence.

To contact the reporter on this story: Mom Kunthear at kunthear.mom@phnompenhpost.com

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