Freed Fishermen Claim Extortion at the Border

An RCAF official who helped se­cure the release of 54 Cambo­dian fishermen from detention in Thai­land a week ago said Wed­nes­day that Immigration police of­­ficials at Choam Yeam Inter­na­tional Check­point in Koh Kong province demanded around $75 from each in order to allow them to re-enter the country.

“They are poor people and they met double danger” on their re­turn to Cambodia, said RCAF Lieu­­tenant Colonel Khon Sa­pong, who is in charge of com­mu­nication with Thailand.

He said the fisherman were ar­rested two weeks ago by Thai soldiers after unintentionally en­ter­ing Thai waters in Trat prov­ince, when their boat was pushed by strong currents.

“The Thai governor and police officer agreed to release them, but when I told them to go back to Cambodia… [Cambodian] po­lice sup­pressed them and forced them to pay money,” Khon Sa­pong said.

Koh Kong immigration police Deputy Chief Chin Sovann de­nied Thursday that his employees ex­torted money.

“I never meet such problem at my place. We do not force people to pay money. If workers who re­turn from Thailand have money, our police will ask them to buy a bottle of pure water for 100 to 200 baht” (approximately $2.50 to $5.00), he said.

Saing Sakhun, chief of Choam Yeam checkpoint, said he was not aware of the accusations and would call relevant officers to meet about the issue.

“If anyone is found out guilty, they will be punished,” he said.

Khon Sapong said: “If they want to meet witnesses, please go to Boun village in Smach Mean­chey district. If [police officials] dare to go there they will get in trouble, because the people there are very angry.”

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