Royal Cambodian Armed Forces soldiers arrested 18 Cambodian farmers trying to cross the border in Oddar Meanchey province to illegally log in Thailand on Saturday.
The farmers, between 20 and 40 years old, were travelling in a rented van equipped with axes, saws and other tools, according to Mei Som, the chief of Khnai Russey village.
“They were all farmers, and decided to log rosewood because of failed crops due to drought,” Som said.
Som said the arrested farmers also took jobs as construction workers to supplement their income, but logging timber, though illegal and dangerous, could be more lucrative.
“The local authorities always educate villagers not to illegally cross into Thailand to log timber, but they are stubborn and have even said they do it because of poverty,” he said.
The farmers were placed in detention at the Kou 8 military camp on Saturday night before being sent to the Samrong town police station on Sunday.
Neam Channy, chief of the criminal office in Samrong town, said the farmers were released after they were reprimanded and signed a contract agreeing not to log.
He said the police were searching for the leader of the criminal operation because they believed a big co-ordinat-ion effort was required.
According to a statement released by the Cambodian-Thai border office, during the first six months of 2012, 38 Cambodians loggers were shot dead in Thailand by Thai border soldiers, highlighting the danger of logging.
To contact the reporter on this story: Phak Seangly at [email protected]