The Vietnamese province of Dak Lak is donating cash and materials to build a new police station across the border in Mondolkiri’s Koh Nhek district, according to a police official.
Van Danin, a spokesman for the Mondolkiri provincial police, said on Tuesday that the Dak Lak government had donated 180 square meters of zinc roofing, 5.5 tons of cement and $1,800 toward a new district police station in Koh Nhek, which shares a roughly 50-km border with Vietnam.
“The Vietnamese side helped by offering these construction materials to build the Koh Nhek district police headquarters in order to strengthen cooperation and friendship between the two provinces,” he said.
“We have agreed together to stop all cross-border crimes in the two provinces.”
Mr. Danin conceded that the borders were not secure, but insisted that police in Mondolkiri do not cooperate with timber smugglers from across the border.
“I wish to deny that our police officers allowed Vietnamese nationals to enter Cambodia and cut the trees in the forests of Mondolkiri province, but they are able to enter Cambodia through some checkpoints outside of our police officers’ patrol hours,” he said.
Just last month, five Vietnamese nationals were arrested in Koh Nhek district in possession of a cache of luxury timber after illegally entering Cambodian territory. In February, four Vietnamese who were arrested while attempting to move first-grade timber out of Koh Nhek said that a Cambodian officer stationed at the border had facilitated their entry.
Sok Ratha, provincial coordinator for rights group Adhoc, said on Tuesday that residents of Koh Nhek had taken to detaining foreign loggers themselves and turning them over to police. The donation from across the border, he said, could dissuade local police from punishing offenders.
“We do not know for sure that helping to build the police station will enable the Vietnamese to log trees freely, but I think this creates a weak point for our authorities,” he said.
“When they receive a gift, they have an understanding. If they arrest some Vietnamese logging in Cambodia, will they just send them back?”
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