Cambodian authorities announced yesterday they would release six Laos who were arrested in Cambodia last Thursday on suspicion of illegal logging, provided that Laos cooperates with broader border negotiations in Stung Treng province’s Siam Pang district, where the men were arrested.
Svay Nhoun, a Stung Treng military battalion commander, said that district authorities seized tractors and other logging equipment from the six men, who were preparing to illegally log rosewood near the border.
Lao authorities were unresponsive to Siem Pang authorities’ notification that they had arrested the men, as well as to their request that Laos return the one Cambodian still detained among the three arrested by Lao authorities early last week after they crossed into Laos from Siem Pang, Nhoun said.
“We continue to intervene with Laos to release him,” he said.
While Laos sneaking into Cambodia poses an occasional problem for border authorities, officials said they were more concerned about combating illegal logging that went in the other direction.
Sok Sokhon, deputy chief of the district police’s security office, said that each year after the rice harvest finished, dozens of Cambodians stream into the border forests in search of illegal timber. Those who brave the border confront arrest, gunfire and even death, said Sokhon.
“They can enter Lao territory because of their associates there. Sometimes they pay a [bribe] fee at the border to Laos but then later, they are arrested by Lao police,” he said.
Local authorities have ordered additional deployment of Cambodian border troops to man border crossings and police the forest in order to prevent illegal crossings, said Sokhon.