Officials are attempting to secure the release of two Cambodian men who were sentenced to three months in a Thai prison on Thursday after being summarily convicted of attacking government inspectors at a market in Sa Kaeo province the day before, according to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and a governor.
Cambodian diplomats in Thailand will review video footage of the attack and attempt to secure legal representation for the jailed duo, the ministry said in a statement on Friday.
“On February 4, yesterday, the Thai court convicted two Khmer vendors by sentencing them to three months in prison,” the statement said.
“Deputy Prime Minister Hor Namhong has immediately advised the ambassador and consuls in Thailand to find a lawyer to defend our people,” it added.
The two men, Nhim Seiha, 24, and Kong Sam Un, 22, were involved in a fight that broke out at the Rong Kluea market on Wednesday morning, after officers from the Thai Department of Special Investigation confiscated counterfeit items being sold by Cambodian vendors.
In retaliation, the vendors allegedly beat the officers and damaged their vehicles.
Banteay Meanchey provincial governor Kousoum Saroeuth—who often negotiates for repatriation of Cambodians who find themselves on the wrong side of the law in Thailand—said Cambodian officials were attempting to get the men out of jail.
“They were convicted of violence against Thai police,” Mr. Saroeuth said. “Now they are being held in prison in Sa Kaeo province. Our consulate is working to secure bail for them.”
A Thai Department of Special Investigations report on the incident said that nearly 400 Cambodians surrounded the officials and overturned an SUV during the operation to confiscate fake versions of brand-name products, the Associated Press reported.
However, Soum Chankea, the Banteay Meanchey provincial coordinator for rights group Adhoc, suggested the Thai officials might have instigated the encounter, and called for a more thorough investigation.
“This is an injustice,” Mr. Chankea said. “Thai authorities should thoroughly investigate who first provoked the problem, rather than just blame the Cambodians.”