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Laos logging leaves Cambodians in limbo

Laos logging leaves Cambodians in limbo

Cambodian authorities are in negotiations with their Laotian counterparts for the release of five nationals arrested for illegal logging in neighbouring Laos on Sunday, officials confirmed yesterday, in what some say is a disturbing trend occurring in Cambodia’s northern province of Stung Treng.

Sun Ban, commander of battalion 701, stationed on the Cambodia-Laos border, said yesterday that Laotian authorities had arrested the five Cambodian nationals on Sunday evening after they were caught cutting down trees in Muang Khong province in Laos, which is adjacent to Cambodia’s Stung Treng province.

“District officials are working with Laos authorities to get them back. We don’t know yet whether or when they will be released,” he said.

Sun Ban lamented the detainees’ disregard for officials’ warnings about illegal logging.

“We always tell them not to cut down trees, especially in nearby countries, because they can be arrested, but they don’t listen to us,” he said.

“Sometimes we have to spend a large amount of money to get them back,” he added.

Adhoc provincial monitor Hou Sam Ol said yesterday that villagers in Stung Treng province resorted to illegal logging because of a lack of jobs.

“They don’t have work to do, that’s why they are forced to enter logging,” he said, estimating that between 80 and 90 percent of villagers in Siem Pang district relied upon the illicit practice for their livelihood.

Hou Sam Ol also said that an increasing number of Cambodians were entering Laos because the trees in Stung Treng province’s Siem Pang district had nearly been depleted.

Despite the inherent dangers, Hou Sam Ol said that villagers continue to fell trees “because the market price for the wood is high and they can make a lot of money selling it,” adding that loggers were also coming from Kratie, Prey Veng and Kampong Cham provinces.

In a similar incident on Sunday, one Cambodian man was killed and four others injured after they were shot by Thai soldiers for allegedly cutting down rosewood trees in Thailand’s Sisaket province.

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