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Tycoon asks PM to help border-crossers

Tycoon asks PM to help border-crossers

A tycoon is calling on Prime Minister Hun Sen to help with the cases of Cambodians whom he claims were robbed and then imprisoned in Vietnam by corrupt border officials.

The letter, written on Monday by Lim Hong Chheang, a tycoon living in Ponhea Krek district in Kampong Cham province on the Cambodia-Vietnam border, said the incidents happened after Cambodians sold goods across the border and were returning with their profits.

He claimed that from March to September in 2012, at the Trapaing Phlong international border checkpoint, Vietnamese authorities arrested and imprisoned five Cambodians and seized more than US$100,000. “Money was confiscated as a Vietnamese government asset,” the letter read.

He added that the Cambodians were charged with illegal currency smuggling. Three of them, he said, were released on bail after detention periods lasting from two to five months, while the other two remain behind bars in Vietnam.

Asked why Chheang went out of his way to help people he wasn’t close with, he said that as a businessman who also worked in the border area for years, the cases moved him to act.

Huot Kim Sieng and Vuth Tha, who were detained more than 3 months in Vietnam’s Tay Ninh province, told the Post yesterday they were arrested for illegal currency smuggling after they sold cows on credit to Vietnamese businessmen and went to collect.  

They claimed that when they appeared in court, the Vietnamese judge told them carrying more than US$5,000 across the border could lead to charges of currency smuggling.Le Minh Ngoc, spokesman for the Vietnamese embassy in Cambodia, could not be reached for comment yesterday.

Not everyone sprang to the men’s defence. Kampong Cham provincial governor Hun Neng said yesterday that the situation may be more complicated that it appears, and that it’s not uncommon for Cambodians to avoid listing currency when crossing over the border, which could get them into trouble. He added he has always advised people to transfer money by bank.

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