Thai police arrested eight Cambodian vendors for selling fake goods in a Thai market at the Thai-Cambodian border near Koh Kong province, officials said Wednesday.
The eight Cambodians, who were arrested at the Cham Yeam international border checkpoint, have been taken to Bangkok, the officials said.
“We are negotiating with the Thai [authorities] to have them released,“ said Youth Phouthong, governor of Koh Kong province. “They have not been charged with a crime, but they are being fined.”
Police at the Cham Yeam checkpoint said the arrest of the Cambodians was made illegally without a warrant from the Thai court and was motivated by police who wanted to extort money from the vendors.
“It is not right—the police should have told the vendors to stop selling, not arrest them,” said Som Sokun, a Cambodian immigration police officer at the Cham Yeam checkpoint, on Wednesday.
Thai Ambassador Chawed Chartsuwan said on Wednesday that he was not aware of the case.
Var Kim Hong, the head of the Council of Minister’s Joint Border Committee, said the government would investigate the case.
The officials in the area are already intervening on behalf of the Cambodians in this case, Youth Phouthong said, adding that provincial authorities are persuading Thai police officers not to fine the Cambodians too much money because the poor vendors cannot afford it.
“Our Khmer people are poor and do not know about the Thai law,” the governor said.
So far, however, the Thai authorities have not yet released the eight Cambodians even though a previous deal was struck to set them free, Youth Phouthong said.
He said the Thais demanded around $3,500 to $4,700 in exchange for the release of the Cambodians, but the amount was too much for the vendors to pay.
“The amount is so much it is like kidnapping,” Youth Phouthong said.
(Additional reporting by David Kihara)