Soldiers crack down on border crossings

Photo by: Heng Chivoan
Logs cut from illegally felled trees litter the side of a road in Kampong Thom province. The authorities in Oddar Meanchey have announced new measures to combat illegal logging.

We have educated them in the villages, but they do no listen to us.

SOLDIERS in Oddar Meanchey province have ramped up their presence along the Thai border this week to prevent Cambodians from crossing over, a move military officials said was in response to an increase in attacks by Thai soldiers on Cambodians participating in illegal logging forays.

“We took this measure because we wanted to avoid these incidents, because we don’t want to see Cambodian people shot or arrested and sent to Thai prisons,” said Nuon Nov, deputy military commander for Royal Cambodian Armed Forces Region 4.

He said the increased military presence was first implemented on Tuesday, and that the soldiers had stopped 60 Cambodians looking to cross the border illegally on that day alone.

“We brought those people back to be re-educated, and we also punished them to dig trenches for one week,” he said. “Otherwise, they will not be afraid.”

Officials in Oddar Meanchey have reported a string of incidents in which Thai soldiers have allegedly opened fire on illegal loggers since September 11, when Thai soldiers allegedly shot and burned alive 16-year-old Yon Rith.

In December, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs sent a note to the Interior Ministry instructing it to urge villagers not to risk crossing into Thailand illegally.

Van Kosal, the governor of Trapaing Prasat district, the home of many of the loggers who have been involved in the reported incidents with Thai soldiers, said local officials were having little success deterring illegal trips across the border.

“We have educated them in the villages, but they do not listen to us,” he said. “I am glad that they have started this policy along the border. All the people that are brought back are being educated about the dangers of crossing the border illegally.”

Srey Naren, Adhoc’s coordinator in Oddar Meanchey, said authorities should also attempt to crack down on the businessmen financing illegal logging operations. “If they want to prevent this 100 percent, then they need to arrest the businessmen,” he said.

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