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Thai Trial for 16 Cambodians Delayed

A Thai provincial court on Friday postponed a hearing for 16 Cambodians who have been charged with illegal entry and illegal logging on Thai soil.

The group was arrested late last month, but Cambodian officials say they had not crossed into Thailand when they were arrested. The Ubon provincial court will hear the case Sept. 23.

The Cambodians live near the disputed border at Preah Vihear temple, and officials say they were looking for wild honey and wood in the forest.

“The Thai court ordered a reinvestigation of the cases…because there was not enough evidence to try them,” said Koy Kong, spokesman for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

The 16 had “absolutely denied” the charges against them, leading to the decision, he said.

Cambodia is providing an independent lawyer to defend them, and the consulate in Sras Keo province was working hard on the case as well, he said.

Sar Thavy, Preah Vihear deputy governor, said he had requested the 16 be returned.

“I believe the Cambodians could not go to cut trees inside Thailand, because the mountain is high and the walk is difficult to the top of the mountain,” he said.

The case comes at a time of easing tensions over a longstanding border dispute, with Cambodians withdrawing some of its troops from positions near Preah Vihear temple earlier this week.

Meanwhile, on Thursday, the Banteay Meanchey provincial court sentenced a Thai man to three months in jail for illegal entry into Cambodia.

Authorities had originally sought to charge him for insulting the national symbol of Angkor Wat, by carving its image into cement near a public toilet in Poipet.