A THAI court has sentenced 16 Cambodians accused of illegal logging along a disputed border area to lengthy prison terms, Cambodian government officials told the Post on Wednesday.
Koy Kuong, spokesman for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said Thailand’s Ubon provincial court decided that 15 of the Cambodians should be jailed for nine years and three months, and that another logger was sentenced to six years and two months in prison.
The group was charged with illegal entry and destruction of forestry, he said.
“They accused our Cambodian loggers of illegal entry into their territory and destroying their forests,” Koy Kuong said.
“We will ask our lawyers to appeal the decision today.”
Defence lawyers for the Cambodians tried to argue that the loggers were not cutting trees, and that they were unaware the area they had entered was Thai soil, Koy Kuong added.
The Thai court allowed a one-month period for an appeal.
“Let our lawyers do their work until the end; then we will use another measure,” Koy Kuong said.
Thai authorities arrested the loggers July 23.
Khoy Khun Hor, chief of cabinet for Preah Vihear province, said Thai authorities have ignored official requests to release the loggers, who come from villages in Preah Vihear and neighbouring Oddar Meanchey provinces.
“I don’t understand the Thai law, but for Cambodia the decision is serious,” Khoy Khun Hor said.
“I think this is revenge from Thailand while we have a border dispute that has not yet been resolved.”