The number of Cambodians crossing the border to illegally log in Thailand can be blamed, at least to some extent, on border officials complicity with the illegal timber trade, a Ministry of Interior report on rosewood smuggling says.
“Information has come from officials in border provinces and the Department of Border Police and show that people crossing the border illegally may be related to Cambodian forces stationed there,” the three-page report, released Friday, says.
“From May 19 to June 20, Cambodians still continue to secretly cross the borders into Thai territory at a high rate, resulting in Thai soldiers shooting six people dead and detaining six others.”
Crossings were spread over Oddar Meanchey, Preah Vihear and Battambang provinces.
Am Sam Ath, a senior official at rights group Licadho said it was clear that officials were involved in aiding many of those crossing the border to log.
“The powerful and the rich provide money for people to cross the border illegally to log,” he said. “So in order to protect the lives of the people, the government must scrutinise its officials and take legal action against any official involved.”
Chhim Savuth, a senior officer at the Cambodian Center for Human Rights, said his investigations had shown some officers along the border were rosewood traders and said action must be taken against them by both the Ministry of Interior and the Ministry of Defence.
“Those who run rosewood business are powerful and close with the government,” he said. “They are police officers and soldiers along the border.”
Ministry of Interior spokesman Khieu Sopheak said officials often tried to educate citizens about the dangers and illegality of crossing the border, but many didn’t listen.