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Thais arrest 21 in border logging bust

Thais arrest 21 in border logging bust

In the latest series of arrests involving illegal logging on the Cambodian-Thai border, 21 Cambodians were picked up by Thai authorities on Friday while attempting to smuggle rosewood into Oddar Meanchey province, a rights group said yesterday.

Srey Naren, provincial coordinator for rights groups Adhoc, told the Post yesterday that the illegal loggers attempted to cross the border in two groups but were caught in Si Sa Ket province, about seven kilometres from the border in Khun Han district.

“One group consisted of 17 people and another of five, but Thai soldiers released one 13-year-old boy because of his age,” Naren said, adding that the 20 other Cambodians would remain in Thailand, where they will face prison sentences ranging from three months to one year.

The boy and two other men among the arrested are from Trapaing Brasat district’s O’Svay commune, confirmed Chan Yen, village chief of Akphivath.

“These people were carrying 30 to 50 kilograms of rosewood back into Cambodia when they were arrested by Thai soldiers and detained in Khun Han district,” Yen said.

However, despite numerous tales of arrests and shootings along the border this year, Pich Vanna, chief of the Cambodian-Thai Border Relations Office, said that illegal logging and unsanctioned border crossing had dropped in 2013.

“After using tough measures and educating locals, not many people cross the border unofficially,” Vanna said, adding that only six or seven cases of shooting deaths of Cambodian loggers by Thai authorities had been recorded this year.

That number pales in comparison, however, to figures provided by Adhoc’s Naren, who said the rights group has tallied 38 such deaths in 2013.

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