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Thai Soldiers Arrest Five in Cross-Border Raid, Groups Claim

Five Cambodians are being held in Thailand after a cross-border raid by Thai security forces, witnesses, local authorities and rights groups said Thursday.

Witnesses in Samrong district, Odar Meanchey province, told VOA Khmer that on Monday Thai soldiers arrested five lumber cutters in Bansaay Reak commune. Other workers escaped, witnesses said.

Thai Embassy officials could not be reached for comment Thursday.

One escapee, Vinh Phal, told VOA Khmer the people of the area are poor and need to cut wood to survive.

At around lunchtime Monday, Thai soldiers raided the group of workers, arresting five, said Vinh Phal, who hid and watched.

"When they arrested the people, the five people, they told them to cut down a whole tree and told them to drag the tree along with them," he said.

They took the equipment, "everything," he said.

Hin Liep, the wife of one of the arrested men, appealed to the government to secure her husband's release.

"My children and I have a hard time," she said.

Bansaay Reak Commune Chief Hem Teda confirmed the arrests.

"After the arrest, they ordered them to cut the logs and take some pictures," said Srei Naren, a coordinator for the rights group Adhoc. "Then they took all five people, along with the logs, into Thailand. Now they've charged those Cambodian people with logging in their territory."