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Workers ‘to be freed’

After blocking Poipet International Checkpoint in protest this weekend, vendors said they are prepared to do so again if 16 Cambodian workers arrested in Thailand are not freed today.

Over 300 rallying vendors shut down the checkpoint on Saturday, using carts to block the road following the arrest earlier this week of 16 workers who allegedly attempted to smuggle counterfeit goods into the neighbouring country.

“It is illegal to take fake products into Thailand. The Thai customs officials are serious about checking since the [May 22] coup,” said Sek Samon, an officer at the Cambodia-Thailand Border Relations Office.

Samon added that the arrested Cambodians hid their knockoffs among other goods. But representatives of the vendors pleaded their innocence.

“They were hired to transport goods on carts and didn’t know the brand names,” said representative Nuon Nikida, 35.

During meetings on Saturday and Sunday, officials from both countries sought to reopen the checkpoint by appeasing the demonstrating vendors.

“Thailand has agreed to release [them],” said Korsum Saroeurt, Banteay Meanchey governor.

Though the workers still have to appear in Thai court on Tuesday, Saroeurt said he was confident of their release.

Sao Veasna, chief of the border relations office in Poipet, said the workers have thumbprinted a document claiming they transported but did not own the counterfeit goods.

ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY LAIGNEE BARRON

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