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.”