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Police accused of shaking down Kandal rat catchers

Police accused of shaking down Kandal rat catchers

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Residents say local authorities have levied a 'rat tax' on them and confiscate their equipment if they don't pay up

HENG CHIVOAN

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

person responsible."

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