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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Illegal cattle exports to Vietnam on the rise, border villagers say

Illegal cattle exports to Vietnam on the rise, border villagers say

Local officials allegedly colluding with smuggling gangs rustling cows from across Cambodia

SVAY RIENG - Cattle smuggling to Vietnam is on the rise, according to residents in Svay Rieng province, who say local police are turning a blind eye to a flourishing cross-border trade.

Villagers in Svay Rieng's Sala Rean commune told the Post that packed cattle trucks were constantly moving over the border in open violation of Cambodian law.

Mechanic Chum Kroch said last week that trucks pass through his village regularly at 7:30 each morning on their way to the border. "In each truck [convoy] there are about 50 or 60 cows, and while I heard that they keep [the cows] at the border, in fact they are importing them into Vietnam," he said. "These people must have high-ranking officers behind their business, because the border police don't dare to speak to them."

Chan Thon, a farmer from Sala Rean, said Vietnamese demand was encouraging Cambodians to sell cattle over the border. "It is a smart business.

The big cows are exported to Vietnam and the baby cows are kept in farms near the border," he said. "Vietnam doesn't only buy cows. They even buy our cow manure, so my village does not have as much manure [to use as cooking fuel] as in the past."

But Mao, a customs officer at the border in Kampong Rou district, said there was little he could do to stop the smuggling, saying that he was in a "simple position" and had no real ability to make arrests. "We know everything but we need to keep quiet," he said.

Meun, a police officer at the border, said that on the one occasion when local authorities tried to stop a cattle truck, shots were fired from the passenger side. Since then, they have waved every truck through.

Farmer Bun Ry from Bassac commune said the cross-border cattle trade posed risks for local livestock.

"It is not only destroying the road. If the cattle are diseased, they could infect the village's cows and buffalo," he said, adding that most of the smuggled cattle came from as far away as Kampong Cham, Battambang, Banteay Meanchey and Pursat provinces.

Nhoung Yenu, chief of Svay Rieng's Bassac commune, said that heavy cattle trucks were heading towards the frontier with increasing frequency and called on the government to staunch the illegal trade.

"The police, who should be controlling them, never listen," he said. "I want people with higher ranks to put a stop to this traffic."

Svay Chrum District Governor Uy Han, however, denied that cattle were being smuggled into Vietnam, saying that only one company has an export licence.

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