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Govt asks for release of border trespassers

THE government has appealed to Thailand for the release of three women who were arrested in Surin province last month and charged with surveying the forest to help illegal loggers, a border official said Monday.

Nhan Sovann, head of the Cambodia-Thailand relations office at the O’Smach border crossing in Oddar Meanchey province, said his staff went to Surin province last week to negotiate the release of the women, two of whom are pregnant and one of whom has three small children.

The women are among six Cambodians who were arrested and await their second Thai court hearing, which has been delayed twice, Nhan Sovann said.

“We suggested that they release the three [women] only, and we’d try to help the other three afterwards. However, we still haven’t heard a response from Thailand,” he said.

The Surin provincial court charged the Cambodians with four crimes, including border trespassing.

Cambodian Foreign Ministry spokesman Koy Kuong confirmed that another hearing had been delayed, adding that Thailand had refused to provide the women with a lawyer.

“Before Cambodia and Thailand pulled out their ambassadors, the Thai court was very cooperative and the lawyers used to help Khmer people, but now they refuse,” he said.

Thai foreign ministry spokesman Thani Thongphakdi said on Monday that he was not aware of the most recent developments in the case and could not comment until he checked on the current situation.

ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY JACOB GOLD

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