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Loggers sent back from Thailand

Four Cambodian migrant workers who were arrested earlier this month for allegedly trying to re-enter Cambodia with fake documents were exonerated by a Thai court and released yesterday, Banteay Meanchey Deputy Governor Um Reatrey has said.

According to Reatrey, the release came after some 100 workers protested on the four men’s behalf. Upon questioning them, he added, a Sa Kaeo provincial judge determined that the accusations against the workers – identified as Mao Vandy, 27; Neth Chen, 31; Nann Samneang, 24; and Nan Sinak, 23 – were baseless. They were sent back to Cambodia via the Poipet International Checkpoint yesterday, Reatrey said.

The men’s case contrasted with that of 25 Cambodians who were released over the course of this month after serving prison terms on charges of illegally logging rosewood in Thailand. Upon their return, border officials “educated” the men, and sent them to their home provinces, said Touch Ra, director of the Chaom-Sa Ngaom border checkpoint in Oddar Meanchey province.

“They had already heard and knew about the dangers of being illegal loggers, but they still did it to earn more money,” Ra said.

In a statement given to police, one of the repatriated loggers said that he had been conned into crossing the border in 2013 by rosewood brokers who had promised they had negotiated with Thai and Cambodian security forces for the loggers’ safe passage. The afternoon he crossed the border, however, “Thai soldiers opened fire. I had no idea how many Cambodians were injured or died since I was arrested and sent to Sisaket Prison.”

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