Sixteen Cambodians from Battambang are being detained at a prison in Thailand’s Sa Kaeo province following their arrests on Monday for alleged illegal logging, Cambodia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs announced on Wednesday.
The arrests are indicative of a shift by the Thai government away from shooting Cambodian loggers found in the country – a practice that stretches back years.
According to the statement, the Thai Forestry Administration, along with local authorities, were patrolling the Pang Sida National Park in Sa Kaeo when they discovered 21 Cambodians logging rosewood trees.
Five of the loggers managed to escape. “On May 23, the Thai police sent the 16 people to a prison in Sa Kaeo province,” the statement reads. Police also confiscated one saw, a gun and nine phones.
The Cambodian Foreign Ministry and Thai officials didn’t respond to requests for comment.
National Police spokesman Kirt Chatharith said that 69 Cambodians were fatally shot by Thai solders after crossing the border in 2013. Since then, the number has dropped consistently, to nine in 2014, five in 2015, two in 2016, and so far none have been reported this year.
“In almost all meetings with Thai authorities, we always suggest them to please not shoot them,” he said, adding that he welcomed the recent arrests and hopes the practice will continue.
“Both sides should obey the humanitarian law, rather than shooting people like animals,” he said.