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Military officer linked to wildlife smuggling

RATANAKKIRI provincial authorities have identified a military officer as the owner of an abandoned car that was found near the Vietnamese border last week carrying more than 300 kilograms of protected wildlife.

Nov Dara, deputy chief of the provincial Bureau for Combating Economic Crime, yesterday identified the car’s owner as as Prum Saream, a military border officer based in Ratanakkiri.

“We sent a report and the car to the provincial Forestry Department in order for them to investigate this case,” he said. “I have handed over details of this person’s identity, such as his name and position, to forestry officials already.”

Pen Bonnar, provincial coordinator for the rights group Adhoc, said that so far, the military official was denying involvement.

“Prum Saream said it is his car, but that his friend borrowed it from him and he did not know it was being loaded with wildlife,” he said. Pen Bonnar said the officer would not face punishment if he was able to provide evidence to support his alibi.

On Monday last week, provincial authorities discovered the car abandoned near the Vietnamese border and confiscated 354 kilograms of protected wildlife, including snakes, turtles, civets and newts.

Pen Bonnar said wildlife trafficking was not uncommon in Ratanakkiri.

“We see that authorities do not seem to have a strong enough ability to confiscate wildlife until they are criticised by people,” he said.

Meanwhile, authorities in Kandal province on Friday confiscated 116 kilograms of wildlife, including turtles, snakes and newts, in a raid in Koh Thom district’s Sampov Puon commune.

Provincial police chief Iv Chamroeun said a suspect had been sent to court for further questioning.

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