One of six Cambodian villagers was arrested by Thai soldiers on Sunday night for allegedly crossing the border to log rosewood in Thailand.
Pov Pheng, deputy head of Cambodian-Thai border liaison office at the International O’smach Border Checkpoint, identified the villager as Roeun Sela, 35, a farmer from Oddar Meanchey provincial city’s O’smach commune.
“Our authorities tried to negotiate and request for his release, but Thailand rejected, claiming he was caught red-handed and must be sent to court for trial,” he said.
According to a report from Thai police, Sela admitted that he and five other villagers sneaked into Thailand on Thursday night with the intention of logging rosewood to sell to a prominent trader known as Sak.
On Sunday evening, the villagers were pulling their carts loaded with timber to the border near the O’smach international checkpoint when they encountered Thai soldiers who were patrolling the border. Sela was arrested while the other five managed to escape.
“In the report, Thai authorities list evidence including a giant saw, two carts fully loaded with timber and rosewood. The suspect and evidence have been sent to Surin provincial court for further actions,” he said.
Villagers in the border area alleged that some Cambodians illegally crossed the border for rosewood in Thailand in collusion with corrupt authorities, including border police unit 702 and border military unit 402 as well as immigration police officers at the O’smach international border checkpoint.
Sela’s mother-in-law Se Pov said Monday that Sela had never logged rosewood until last week, when a few villagers lured him into crossing the border with the help of one military officer known as Dos.
“I do not know which unit Dos is from, but they told me that in the area there are two border units: military border unit 402 and border police unit 702,” Pov said.
Military border unit 402 commander Pok Sophal said on Monday that none of his officers had colluded with loggers and that the recent case did not happen in the area under his unit’s jurisdiction.
“We will investigate and if we find any officer assisting illegal loggers in crossing the border to log rosewood in Cambodia or Thailand, we’ll take legal action without exception,” he said.
Sophal said the Cambodian logger was arrested by Thai soldiers about 100 metres from the O’smach casino and resort, which is under border police unit 702’s jurisdiction.
Border police unit 702 commander Kong Sokhan said the area is under the jurisdiction of immigration police, who have complete authority over a 1km radius of the O’smach international border checkpoint.
Immigration police officials could not be reached for comment on Monday.