A Thai military offic-ial said yesterday 38 Cambodians arrested in Thailand on Monday were among a group of about 70 allegedly attempting to smuggle luxury rosewood out of Sisaket province.
A source close to Thai defence spokesman Col Thanatip Sawangsaeng, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the alleged loggers had been caught with 109 pieces of timber, as well as tools such as saws and axes.
“On the 11th of March, about 70 Kampucheans crossed over to Sisaket area, and on the 12th of March, they were spotted by Thai villagers trying to smuggle wood that was logged from the area, so the villagers alerted the officials,” the source said.
“Soldiers, accompanied by policemen, went into the area to arrest the intruders, and as a result 38 Kampucheans were arrested,” he said, adding that he did not know what had happened to those who evaded the authorities.
Those arrested were reportedly caught logging rosewood in Sisaket province’s Phanom Dong Ra National Park.
Touch Ra, chief of border relations at the Chhom Sror Ngam border checkpoint in Oddar Meanchey province, said the group had crossed into Thailand from the Dangrek mountain range in Preah Vihear’s Cham Ksan district.
Keo Tan, a police chief in Oddar Meanchey’s Trapaing Prasat district, said another 20 Cambodian loggers attempting to cross into Thailand through the same mountains had been intercepted yesterday.
“They were sent to provincial police for education. They will be released [after]. We do not want to see Cambodians illegal crossing it Thailand,” he said.
Police seized 14 carts, ropes, one large chainsaw, a homemade tractor and other tools for illegal logging from the group, most of whom hailed from Siem Reap province.
Foreign affairs spokesman Koy Kuong said Prime Minster Hun Sen and Foreign Minister Hor Namhong had repeatedly urged Cambodians to look for jobs at home rather than illegally cross the border into Thailand.
“We’ve tried to make appeals again and again, and the local authorities try to stop them and educate them. But the border is nearly 800 kilomet-res long, so we cannot totally stop them. But we try our best, step by step,” Koy Kuong said.
The Cambodian consul-general in Thailand’s Sakeo province had travelled to Sisaket and would find legal representation for anyone who had been arrested, he added.