More than 70 Cambodians have been arrested this year by Lao authorities for illegally crossing the border, mostly as illegal loggers, border officials say in a report that was released yesterday.
Stung Treng provincial Royal Cambodian Armed Forces commander Brigadier-General Svay Ngorn said 78 Cambodians had illegally crossed into Laos in the first eight months of 2012, but all were repatriated after brief detention and “re-education” by Lao authorities.
“Our authorities have arrested 26 Laotian people so far this year and we have since released them after negotiations between border officials from the two countries,” Ngorn said.
Aside from logging, Cambodians and Laotians crossed the clearly demarcated border to go hunting.
Ngorn said that this year, there had been a dip in Cambodians caught and a spike in Laotians detained, but he attributed this to a decrease in Laotian border police compared to Cambodia.
Border officials usually negotiate a “return fee” for border nationals arrested in their territory to cover the expense of detention and repatriation transit. Ngorn said he did not know the total paid by Cambodian authorities to Lao authorities for the return of Khmer loggers in 2012.
Hou Sam Ol, a monitor for the human-rights group Adhoc in Stung Treng province, said 99 per cent of the villagers who were arrested by Lao authorities were involved in illegal logging, usually on contract to luxury-timber businessmen.
To contact the reporter on this story: Mom Kunthear at [email protected]