Thais Free Border Traders, Detain Dozens More

Sixteen Cambodian border traders imprisoned by the Thai military for smuggling on Saturday were released Monday, while dozens more were briefly detained and then released, according to Poipet City Governor Ngor Mengchruon.

The 16 traders were seized by Thai soldiers at a second makeshift checkpoint across the border on Saturday after they had successfully passed through regular customs with carts of counterfeit goods hidden beneath secondhand clothing.

“All 16 Cambodian cart-pushers are traveling by bus to the border after their charges were dropped by the Sa Kaeo provincial court and will arrive at 7 p.m.” Mr. Mengchruon said Monday afternoon.

Poipet City authorities had negotiated their release with the Thai military on Saturday in exchange for improved monitoring of trade on the Cambodian side but had said that bureaucracy prevented their release over the weekend.

In line with the deal struck on Saturday, Mr. Mengchruon added, officials from the Thai military junta Monday held a two-hour inspection session to attempt to rid the crossing and the nearby Rong Kluea market of counterfeit trading.

“High-level officials went to the checkpoint to hold a meeting with their colleagues at the border to reform the working conditions,” said Mr. Mengchruon, who explained that Cambodian traders were detained during the session.

“They had to wait about two to three hours to go back to the Cambodian border due to the task of the Thai officials.”

Thai Seila, a vendor at the Rong Kluea market, said Cambodian traders had crossed over the border throughout the morning but were prevented from leaving after they had sold their wares and bought new supplies.

“Today it was very unusual,” Mr. Seila said. “This morning, the cart-pushers could enter as normal but couldn’t go back home after they had bought their goods such as food supplies, fruit, ice and their other daily food, which were spoiled because they were waiting there until 3 p.m.”

“If this case continues, our border cart-pushers will not be able to earn a living at the border.”

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