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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Thais provide photos of missing loggers

Thais provide photos of missing loggers

Cambodian officials say they are distributing the images among relatives for identification

Photographs of 12 Cambodians arrested in Thailand on suspicion of illegal logging have been sent to the Cambodian authorities in a bid to confirm their identities.

The men, who have been missing for several weeks, disappeared during a series of crackdowns on unlicensed logging activity across the Cambodia-Thailand border last month.

It was originally feared that they had been shot dead by Thai troops who fired on the group in what the military described as self-defence. The bodies of two of their fellows were discovered last week.

Speaking to the Post on Monday, Trapaing Prasat district police chief Keo Tann said the identities of most of the men had now been confirmed. "I received 12 photos of the arrested Cambodians, and I have been showing them to their relatives who have been looking for them," he said.

I am inviting everyone whose relatives have disappeared to check these photos

"I am inviting everyone whose relatives have disappeared to check these photos to confirm whether they are the ones they are looking for. A number of them have been recognised by villagers." Four of the 12 men have now been accounted for, he said.
Chhoun Ra, 41, had heard nothing of her 20-year-old son Pol Ben - alias Poy - since August 17, when the Thai authorities arrested a number of Cambodian loggers in Si Sa Ket province. With no way of contacting him, she feared the worst. His photograph, however, was among those handed over.

"I saw my son's photo at the police station," she told the Post. "I am so happy to know he is alive and well in a Thai prison. I have feared for his life since he disappeared more than two weeks ago, but now I know he is fine." Almost all of the missing men appeared in the photos, she said.

Confusion over the men's true identities arose because many gave false names when they were arrested, making it almost impossible to trace them, Keo Tann explained. "Sometimes the men change their names when they have to report to the Thai authorities, so these photos are a clear way of knowing their identity," he said.

In the wake of the disappearances, relatives combed the area and found many of their loved ones' belongings, fuelling speculation that the missing men had been killed. Sos Lonh, whose son was among their number, said: "I did not see any bodies, but I saw many belonging scattered throughout the forest. It is a pitiful place to see because many things have been destroyed by Thai bullets."

Vann Kosal, governor of Oddar Meanchey province, said on Monday that the border authorities were working to prevent more Cambodians from entering Thailand illegally. "Our officials and military are standing at the border to prevent Cambodians from going into Thailand illegally,"he said. "This is for their safety."

Koy Kuong, spokesman for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, said Monday that the men were still being held for questioning in Thailand and that the government was working closely with Thai officials to ensure they are given a fair trial.

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