Four Cambodians Arrested in Border Forest on Lao Territory

Four Cambodians were arrested Sunday by Lao soldiers after crossing the border while hunting and foraging, officials said yesterday.

The four—Chin Mao, 38; Ath Le, 48; Loeun Sithon, 42; and Vet Vandy, 48—were found approximately 1 km into Lao territory, said Brigadier General Svay Ngorn, RCAF’s Stung Treng provincial commander, according to information sent to officials by Lao authorities yesterday.

“Right now, there’s a total of 10 men detained in Champasak pro­vince, but we do not hurry talks to release them…. We will give them a lesson and make them homesick, and we will release them later,” he said, adding that all would likely be sent home within two weeks.

According to Brig. Gen. Ngorn, 27 Cambodians were arrested in Laos in December alone. While he did not have readily available figures from the same period in 2010, he said the numbers had been increasing. Nevertheless, he noted, the situation was far better than that on the Thai border—where at least 15 Cambodians were shot to death by Thai authorities last year. None have been killed in Laos.

“We always have a peaceful talk [with our Lao counterparts]; and we ask the Lao soldiers not to shoot Cambodians when they find them illegally crossing the border,” he said.

Va Sophorn, district police chief of Siem Pang, which borders Laos, said economic hardship was contributing to the uptick in border crossing,

“My local villagers are poor, so they have no other jobs for making money,” he said. His words were echoed by Stung Treng provincial governor Loy Sophat.

“Our people are entering the forest to hunt wildlife or pick wild vegetables because their rice farming has finished and they don’t have much work. They enter the forest to earn extra income and improve their living condition,” he said, adding that the situation was not a new one.

“We can’t stop them entering the forest because they have been going since long, long ago. If we want to stop them, we can do it only if we built a border fence 6 meters high,” he said. Mr. Sophat stressed that when villagers wander across the border, they rarely do so intentionally. At least 11 Lao nationals were also arrested in Cambodia’s territory during December.

“The forest covering is very thick, and both country’s villagers find it hard to recognize the border territory,” he said.



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