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'Loggers' charged in Preah Vihear are innocent, families say

Officers set a snare in Preah Vihear province earlier this month in the hunt for the murderers of two forest patrollers.
Officers set a snare in Preah Vihear province earlier this month in the hunt for the murderers of two forest patrollers. Photo supplied

'Loggers' charged in Preah Vihear are innocent, families say

Family members of six suspects charged with illegally logging in the wake of the killing of two forest patrollers in Preah Vihear filed a complaint to Adhoc yesterday, asking for the rights group’s help in getting the suspects released.

The six were arrested following a nighttime ambush that killed two forest patrolmen and wounded another, though their relatives told Adhoc that the suspects were not connected to the murders, according to Adhoc coordinator Lor Chan.

None have been charged with taking part in the ambush, but the six had all reportedly been photographed in the act of logging by one of the slain rangers.

“We also investigated the case, and concluded that the six were not involved with the murder, but were logging illegally. We will ask the court to work on the forest offence only,” Chan said.

Tun Virith, the father of suspect Rith Sokchea, insisted that his son committed a “minor mistake” and knew nothing about the murders.

Ly Lon, a provincial prosecutor, said that the suspects will continue to be held, although some may be released on bail.

A seventh suspect, a soldier from the 3rd Division’s 9th brigade, has started serving a 10-year prison sentence for a separate armed robbery conviction while he awaits charges connected to the rangers’ murders.

Authorities were tight-lipped, however, about the search for another soldier wanted in connection with the killings who fled his unit as news of arrests broke.

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