Six Chinese men who were smuggled in from Vietnam were arrested and sent to a quarantine centre in Svay Rieng province’s Svay Rieng town on the night of May 3 after residents spotted them walking through Prasot 2 village in Svay Tiep district’s Kandieng Reay commune.

Svay Tiep district police chief Keo Sophorn on May 5 identified the Chinese men, aged 18 to 22, would be referred to the higher authorities for further action following the quarantine.

“After we arrested and interrogated them, we sent them to the quarantine centre in Svay Rieng town. As for further steps, I do not know what actions my superiors will decide on,” Sophorn said.

According to the villagers, at around 8pm on May 3 the residents of Kandieng Reay commune’s Prasot 2 village spotted the Chinese nationals walking through their village.

As the people were all well aware of the border closure orders and the Ministry of Health’s Covid-19 preventive measures, they reported their presence to the Kandieng Reay commune police.

The provincial immigration police were also called in to help deal with situation.

"They do not have passports with them, and because of the fear of infection with Covid-19 the authorities decided to take them to the quarantine centres now before taking further action," Sophorn said.

Sar Keo, director of the provincial immigration police office, declined to provide further details, saying only that further legal action would be taken.

"[Travelling] without passports ... is illegal, and so is crossing the border when it is closed. But I didn’t dare go near them for now, we need to wait until they have finished their quarantine period,” he said.

A police officer in Svay Teap district who asked not to be named said the Chinese nationals illegally crossed the border from Vietnam.

Citing the authority’s preliminary conclusions, he said it was believed that they took taxi from the Bavet international border towards the Svay Rieng provincial town, but due to the unfavourable situation and the driver’s fear of authorities guarding the border area, he dropped the Chinese men halfway.