NEW laws and harsher penalties are needed to prosecute people who trade in illegal wildlife, government officials said yesterday.
Speaking at the opening of a two-day regional anti-wildlife trafficking workshop in Phnom Penh, Justice Minister Ang Vong Vathana said that a lack of concrete wildlife management legislation combined with weak penalties for illegal traders meant there was little to deter would-be perpetrators.
“Wildlife trade is a serious problem threatening the national resources of Cambodia,” he said.
According to Article 93 of Cambodia’s Law on Forestry, passed in 2002, individuals found guilty of trading illegally in wildlife face prison sen-
tences of up to 10 years and fines of up to 100 million riels (US$23,518).
Tim Sipha, director of the Legislation and Law Enforcement Department at the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, said that 44 suspects had been sent to court charged with wildlife crimes so far this year.
“Wildlife crimes happen most in northeastern parts of the country where there are many forests,” he said.
Suon Sovann, deputy director of the Forestry Administration’s Legislation and Law Enforcement Department, said the government considered wildlife to be state property, and that it was therefore the state’s responsibility to protect species from poaching.
He said that most Cambodian wildlife trafficking was across the border for sale in neighbouring Vietnam and Laos.