A Mondolkiri province court has fined 19 Vietnamese loggers nearly $35,000 and ordered them deported, provincial officials said.
The loggers were acquitted of illegally entering Cambodia—the main charge they faced—but were fined $33,750 for logging in Mondolkiri’s dense forests, Mondolkiri Deputy Judicial Police Chief Chin Sarun said.
Chin Sarun said he was not upset by the acquittal, since the Vietnamese had spent time in prison.
“They have already served six months in prison, so it is enough of a penalty for their illegal entry into Cambodia,” the chief said.
Nonetheless, the group remained behind bars Sunday, and will not be released until members make a down payment on the fines, Chin Sarun said.
“They are foreigners, so we need their guarantees that they will pay the fines,” he said.
Authorities arrested the loggers in February, alleging they illegally entered Cambodia in Mondolkiri’s Pich Chenda district, across from Vietnam’s Darlac province.
Authorities confiscated four tractors and five chain saws, which they said the loggers were going to use to haul away lumber. Prime Minister Hun Sen ordered the RCAF to investigate investigation into illegal logging in the border province.
Mondolkiri has been the site of logging controversies several times before. Most notably, the government last year fired then-Governor Choam Bunkham and then-Deputy Governor Meas Thorn, after Vietnamese loggers carted more than 400 truckloads of lumber across the border. The government did not allege that either man was involved in the illegal logging, but said they must take responsibility, since it happened on their watch.
Under new forestry laws, illegal cutters face stiff penalties, and up to 10 years in prison.
(Additional reporting by Agence France-Presse)