The Ministry of Environment warned souvenir vendors trafficking goods made of exotic bones and wild animals that they would face a similar justice as those convicted of breaking laws on money laundering and financing terrorism.
The notice came after 32 businesses in Siem Reap and Preah Sihanouk province were found to be selling souvenirs made from rhinoceros horns and elephant ivory.
Ministry spokesman and secretary of state Neth Pheaktra said businesspeople selling sculptures made from exotic bones or other wild animal parts were in violation of the Law on Forestry and the Law on Nature Protection Area.
“The import and export of [such] items is a criminal offence. Those who are involved in it are punishable by imprisonment like those convicted of breaking the Law on Money Laundering and Financing of Terrorism.
“If business owners hide or sell souvenirs made from rhinoceros horns and elephant ivory, please hand them over to the authorities. If the authorises find and catch you, they take legal action,” Pheaktra said.
Cambodia programme manager for Birdlife International Bou Vorsak applauded the move, saying Cambodia had a big role in combating animal trade.
“We have cracked down on elephant ivory, if we hadn’t, then we wouldn’t be a part of the global cooperation to reduce the smuggling of animal products,” he said.
A souvenir vendor told The Post under the condition of anonymity that some rhinoceros horns and elephant ivory sold as souvenirs were leftover since “ancient times” – and safely off the radar of customs officials.
“In the mountainous forest [region], they use the elephant ivory to produce cold medicine and treat diseases.
“Some traditional healers use animal bones such as ivory tusks, tiger fangs and rhinoceros horns to treat illnesses that doctors can’t. The traditional healers carry out treatment by using the bones,” the vendor said.
In 2017, a traditional medicine seller in Kampong Speu province was arrested after police uncovered deer, pangolins, banteng, tortoise, civet and bones of black and white snakes, sun bear nails, rhinoceros horns and wild dog fangs in his store.
In December last year, authorities seized more than 1,000 pieces of ivory weighing nearly 3,500kg at the Phnom Penh Autonomous Port.
The Kingdom has a strict policy of not destroying illegal animal products. Instead, goods are kept for “scientific research” or for exhibitions.
More than five tonnes of rhinoceros horns and elephant ivory samples were confiscated from 2016-2018, the ministry said.