Thailand has rejected requests to release three Banteay Meanchey province men who were arrested on Tuesday after allegedly crossing the border illegally to harvest timber in the Dangrek Mountains, a Cambodian official said yesterday.
The three men–Phoeuy Muon, 20, Tuy Ty, 18, and Lim Liep, 30–are being held in a Thai jail after being arrested by a dozen black-clothed Thai soldiers, said Pich Vanna, deputy director of the Northwest Border Commission office.
“Thai authorities rejected sending them back to Cambodia because the three are charged with three crimes: illegal border crossing, illegal logging in Thailand and, above all, Thai soldiers found a total of 53 bullets in their belongings,” Mr Vanna said yesterday.
He added, “The three will face legal action to be taken by Thai authority for their crimes.”
Mr Vanna said three officials from his commission met with the detained men in jail and interviewed them to find out “whether the bullets found were made up or truly theirs.”
According to Mr Vanna, the captured men said they crossed into Thailand with 18 other men to log in the mountains. The men added, Mr Vanna said, that they worked with five Thai men as well.
Mr Vanna said the men did not know where the bullets came from but they did not believe Thai officials planted them in their belongings.
Mr Vanna praised the Thai border police for firing warning shots into the air before they apprehended the men, instead of shooting the Cambodians.
“The attitude of Thai border soldiers has changed because they didn’t shoot and kill the loggers at the scene,” Mr Vanna said. “Now Thailand has a softer measure by arresting for prosecution and not shooting at the alleged loggers.”
The arrested men and the 15 who returned to Cambodia said they had been to Thailand on four previous occasions to plan logging expeditions with Thais on the other side, said Thor Touch of the 503rd RCAF border battalion.
The Thai Foreign Ministry did not answer requests for comment yesterday.
(Additional reporting by Drew Foster)