Seven men who spent about a year in a Thai prison after being convicted of illegal logging were released and repatriated to Cambodia on Saturday.
Chin Met, 66; Chheun March, 41; Chheun Touch, 37; Erm Sanya, 20; Pheun Seyha, 20; Sron Srear, 16; and Phon Srey, 11, were released into Cambodia via Oddar Meanchey province’s Choam International Border Checkpoint on Saturday morning, said Kong Tol, deputy director of immigration at the checkpoint. All are from Oddar Meanchey province’s Trapaing Prasat district.
“According to Thai authorities, the seven people were arrested on May 30, 2014, by Sisaket [Thailand] provincial authorities for illegally crossing the border into Thailand for logging,” Tol said. “They were sentenced to a year in prison for illegal border crossing and logging.”
According to Tol, Touch claimed that the group was not logging. Additionally, he said, they accidentally crossed into Thailand, and were arrested by Thai authorities while gathering mushrooms.
“We did not log timber, we just gathered vines, mushrooms and honey,” Touch said, according to Tol’s report. “We thought that we were in Cambodian territory.”