Residents say local authorities have levied a 'rat tax' on them and confiscate their equipment if they don't pay up
Two boys display thier rodent quarry in a Kandal rice field.
VILLAGERS in Kandal province say police
have launched a crackdown on the local rat trade, seizing hunters'
traps and other equipment while demanding money.
Tuy Nich, 25, a resident of Korki Thom village, located 60 kilometres
outside Phnom Penh, said police confiscated traps and a battery-powered
rat zapper he was using to stun rats in a village rice field.
"I had set two rat traps and an electric-shock device so I could catch
rats for the market," Tuy Nich said. "Police told me that if I paid
US$50, I could get my equipment back but I didn't have enough money."
Reoun Sambath, 26, said police in Tareap Dounsar district also began
confiscating traps when villagers refused to give them money in return
for permission to continue hunting.
"Police ordered us to pay 100 riels ($0.02) per rat," he said. "We
refused because we are living hand to mouth. We are barely surviving,
while police just try to exploit us."
Nop Dyna, 45, said villagers in Tareap Dounsar are accustomed to
hunting rats during the rainy season in order to supplement their
incomes. Without the rats, they would have trouble surviving.
"We can't catch the rats without our electric prods," he said. "When
the police confiscate them, they are stealing our livelihoods."
Kim Rathna, a police official in Kien Svay district, denied that police
were demanding money from villagers or trying to exploit them.
Rather, they were only cracking down on the use of illegal equipment in order to protect the safety of villagers.
"If they use traps, there is no problem," he said.
"But electrocuting rats is against the law. Just a few days ago, three
people were electrocuted by these devices. We are still looking for the