A group of fourteen Cambodian men imprisoned in Thailand for as long as four years over offences that include illegal logging, robbery and drug trafficking were repatriated on Saturday after being released.
Touch Ra, chief of border relations at the Cambodian-Thai Chhoam Sror Ngam international border gate in Anlong Veng district, Oddar Meanchey, said the 14 men had been arrested at different times in Thailand’s Sisaket province since 2007.
“The repatriation of Khmer prisoners were made after some of them completely served their jail terms and some were pardoned by the Thai king during his birthday last month,” he said.
The men, from Banteay Meanchey, Battambang, Pursat, Kampong Cham and Kandal provinces, were the latest of about 30 Cambodians to be repatriated after being arrested in Thailand this year, Touch Ra said.
But far too often, black-clothed Thai soldiers have simply shot at Cambodians who illegally crossed the border, he said. “The Cambodian government discussed with the Thai government many times, ‘don’t inhumanely fire shots at Cambodians’,” he said. “They are required to arrest and condemn them according to Thai law , but mostly Thais used guns to shoot at Cambodian civilians.”
Srey Naren, a coordinator for human rights group Adhoc in Banteay Meanchey province, said research had found about 10 instances of Thai soldiers shooting at Cambodians illegally crossing the border.
“It was so good that Thai authorities sent the freed Cambodians back to meet their families. It was a caution to awake them not to cross the border illegally or not to commit any offence in Thai territory anymore,” he said.
Banteay Meanchey provincial deputy police chief Puthi Ngop said the men had received sentences ranging from one to five years but had been returned following negotiations with Thailand.
“The repatriation was made through a mutual understanding and good cooperation among the two countries,” he said. A total of 144 Cambodian citizens were imprisoned in three jails in Thailand’s Sisaket and Ubon Ratchathani provinces as of November this year, Touch Ra said.
Meanwhile, eight people arrested in a group of 28 Cambodians for allegedly crossing illegally into Laos to log were also repatriated on Saturday, Si Suon, governor of Siem Pang district in Stung Treng province, said yesterday.
“Lao authorities found they did not commit serious crimes because they had no evidence of illegal logging in Lao territory,” he said.
“They made a mistake by crossing the border illegally and Laos sent them back to Cambodia in the spirit of bilateral cooperation,” he said.
The suspects were arrested in Laos' Cham Pasak province close to the Cambodian border earlier this month.