A restaurant worker grills dogs over an open fire.
It's 4 am, and although the streets of Chamkarmorn district are deserted, the air
is filled with the thick, acrid odor of burning flesh.
Men arrive on a motorbike carrying several large black bags. The cargo is unloaded
and taken inside a small wooden building. Money changes hands. Inside the shack,
a small fire burns. Occasionally a yelp will pierce the street's silence, but it's
short, sharp and generally followed by an ominous thud.
This is an average night in the grisly world of Cambodia's dog trade.
The source of the choking stench is a nearby restaurant that specializes exclusively
in dog meat. According to Vira Avalokita, a US citizen and Buddhist monk who lives
next door, the restaurant and others like it are fuelling the abduction of family
pets and creating a public health hazard - all in an attempt to satisfy the palates
of some discerning Phnom Penh diners.
Avalokita claims that for several months he has witnessed an increasing number of
animals brought to the restaurant by various dog dealers.
"I have seen people come and deliver dogs. I have seen police come and bring
dogs, some with collars," Avalokita said. "It used to be a few dogs but
now it's up to 20 a day, and on busy days even as many as 50."
The unnamed restaurant has recently become popular with Cambodians as well as ethnic
Chinese and Vietnamese. At night the street fills with tuk-tuks and cyclos waiting
for customers to finish dining. On weekends, karaoke music blasts until morning.
Selling dog meat is legal in Cambodia. The animal is believed to hold warming properties
and is served in many Asian communities.
But the theft of domestic animals is illegal, and without strict enforcement the
stealing continues. The Post reported in September that a rash of dog thefts had
been plaguing Phnom Penh for several months. Local officials in Russey Keo district
said that over a hundred dogs had disappeared in their district alone.
"In Cambodia a dog is considered property, it is illegal to steal them. If the
restaurant takes stolen animals then it is dealing in stolen goods," Avalokita
In an alley by the restaurant dogs are de-furred and boiled in a huge tub. The carcasses
are then cooked on open charcoal grills. Employees, who were busy preparing meat
for the evening's customers, said an order of dog soup or roast cost 1,000 riel.
"We are very busy. I sell more than 10 kilograms a day," said one unnamed
trader. "All the dogs come from other provinces, and people come here to sell
Avalokita has complained to municipal authorities that the business constitutes a
noise and health hazard. Authorities have said they are looking into the issue.
"If I found that there was a restaurant selling dog in my district, I would
invite health and safety officials from the Ministry of Health to check the food
for safety," said Chamkarmorn District Governor Lo Luy. "There may be some
small places selling dog, but nothing that I am aware of."
Uch Sokhon, deputy police chief for Chamkarmorn district, said he did not know for
sure whether stolen dogs were appearing in his district, but if he was made aware
of a problem he would take measures to crack down on it.
"Establishing a restaurant for selling dog meat is legal, and because it is
a business they already asked permission from the district governor before they started,"
"But if someone complains of people stealing dogs from other districts and taking
them to sell in my district, I will take action."