Thailand Returns Dozens of Detained Illegal Loggers

Thailand on Friday repatriated 58 Cambodians who had illegally crossed the border to log rosewood trees in the hope of hauling them back to Cambodia, the Foreign Affairs Ministry said in a statement released Tuesday.

Contacted by telephone, ministry spokesman Chum Sounry said the group was released last week with the help of the Cambodian Embassy in Bangkok after their families paid the required fines.

“Each of the rosewood loggers was fined 4,250 baht [about $118] and returned home on September 11 through the O’Smach international checkpoint” in Oddar Meanchey province, he said. The spokesman said he did not know when the 58 were caught.

Dozens, if not hundreds, of Cambodians sneak into Thailand every year to log rosewood, which can fetch thousands of dollars per cubic meter in China, where much of it ends up.

Many of the loggers are shot dead by Thai security forces in the process. In an unrelated case, Mr. Sounry said that another 34 Cambodians were still in the custody of Thai police after they snuck into the country to look for work.

He said they were abandoned by the people who smuggled them across the border for 1,000 baht each, or about $28, and that the Cambodian Embassy would assist with their repatriation once their cases reached the courts.

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