Efforts underway to secure release of four Thai detainees

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SA KAEO, March 27 – The governor of Sa Kaeo said Tuesday he would help secure the release of four Thai nationals detained in Cambodian on March 23 for illegal entry through talks with the Cambodian authorities.

Speaking to reporters before attending a Thai-Cambodian Regional Border Committee (RBC) meeting today in Siem Reap, Sanit Naksooksri, governor of Sa Kaeo, said he would raise the issue at the meeting.

According to the preliminary investigation, he said the four had entered Cambodia several times over the past two years through the Bungtakuan-Taphraya border crossing to work legally on a gold mine concession.

Every time, they contacted Cambodian border patrol police to facilitate their entry, so the governor said he did not know the reason why they were detained this time by Cambodian soldiers.

Meanwhile, Yutthana Nutchanart, Taphraya district chief, said the Thai authorities have been working with the Thai-Cambodian Joint Coordination Office (TCJCO) to help set free the detainees.

Sisophon court in Banteay Meanchey has not yet ruled on the case but ordered the four to temporary detention. The judge also instructed their employer in Cambodia’s Udon Meechai to submit related documents to the court for its consideration.

Mr Yutthana said he was optimistic that there should be no problem and that the four will likely be released soon.

The official said the four are all Taphraya natives. Mr Saran and Mrs Suriya Panphet, both 42, are mining contractors and another couple– Bai Sodachan and his wife, Ms Wanwisa, aged 24–are their employees.

The four were detained while driving two pick-up trucks to survey a mine in Cambodian territory, nine kilometres from the Thai-Cambodian border.

They were employees of a gold mine company, a Thai-Cambodian joint venture, which was granted concession more than four years ago.