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14 Cambodians deported, 327 detained

Fourteen Cambodians detained at a Sa Kaew prison have been repatriated to their country after being released on Wednesday, when illegal-entry charges were dropped by police.

Separately, a total of 327 Cambodians were arrested for illegal entry in three lots in this border province by joint police and Army forces.

The 14 people returned were earlier handed to Thai Immigration Police, then transported to Cambodia's Poipet checkpoint at 9.30am yesterday. The repatriation was conducted at a location where media personnel from both countries were not permitted to enter.

Sources at the Poipet checkpoint said that the group, were greeted by their families. Some were hugging and crying openly when they met.

The media focus on the 14 came after news of the release of Thai activist Veera Somkwamkid broke on Tuesday.

Speculation grew that Veera's release was linked to the repatriation of the Cambodians.

In arrests linked to the 327 others - mostly Cambodians aiming to work illegally in Thailand - a Thai woman and a Cambodian man were detained for hiding 149 Cambodians in a house and a nearby sugar-cane field. The woman, identified as Juthamas Onsopha, has been charged with giving shelter to illegal aliens.

Another 61 Cambodians, 36 of them men, were found and apprehended in another arrest near the Thai-Cambodian Friendship Bridge in Sa Kaew's Aranyaprathet district. They later told police they each paid Bt2,000 to a Cambodian agent to be smuggled into Thailand.

Another 117 Cambodians including 71 men were found and apprehended in a small jungle, also in Aranyaprathet, by a local rangers unit. They were handed to Immigration Police accused of illegal entry and lacking travel documents.


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