TWELVE Cambodian men appeared in a Thai court Monday on charges of illegal logging, said Leu Chandara, deputy chief of the Cambodia-Thailand Relations Office.
Leu Chandara, who attended the trial in Thailand’s Sisaket provincial court, said on Tuesday: “I believe the Thai court will try them fairly, and they will receive a reduced sentence. We’ve been working closely with the Thai side on this issue.” The court is expected to deliver its verdict on Monday.
Chhoun Ra, the mother of one of the 12 suspects, was among the parents of the accused allowed to attend Monday’s trial. “I hope my son will be released because he told the Thai court he didn’t even know how to cut wood. He was just taking food to the loggers,” she said.
Chhoun Ra also said that her son told the court that he did not see the demarcation poles marking the Thai border because the area was too densely forested.
The men were arrested by Thai soldiers during an August crackdown on illegal logging at various points along the Cambodia-Thai border in Prasat district, Oddar Meanchey province.
The same crackdown is believed to have triggered an incident in which Thai soldiers allegedly opened fire on a group of Cambodians, killing two and injuring several others.
Cambodia’s Foreign Ministry sent a diplomatic note to Thailand on October 16 condemning the incidents but has yet to receive a formal response.
“We are still waiting for a reply from the Thai side on the fatal shooting of a Cambodian man by Thai soldiers,” said Koy Kuong, spokesman for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.