Cambodian customs and Forestry Administration officials seized over 30 kilograms of rhinoceros horn at Phnom Penh International Airport yesterday, forestry officials said.
The horns were being transported by Chinese national Lian Jianying, and are suspected to have been smuggled from Africa.
“We cooperated with customs at the airport, and now we took her [the suspect] to the military police headquarters so that we can send her to court,” Chan Thetha Narak, chief of Phnom Penh’s municipal Forestry Administration, said yesterday.
The rhino horns were confiscated and brought to the municipal Forestry Administration, he added.
Responding to the incident, World Wildlife Fund for Nature’s Un Chakrey said it was uncommon to see rhinoceros horns smuggled in Cambodia. “We focus on cross-border smuggling, but usually it is elephant [ivory] across the border with Vietnam,” Chakrey said. “There is no rhinoceros in Cambodia, so it’s not so common.”
But Khem Vuthyravong, a wildlife rescue hotline worker with the Wildlife Alliance, said there have been a handful of cases of rhinoceros-horn smuggling detected in Cambodia over the past several years.
“There were three or four cases in Cambodia, but we were involved in only one case at Siem Riep International Airport,” Vuthyravong said.
“We don’t think Cambodia is the final destination for these products from Africa; it’s just used as a transit country for people working for Vietnamese traders,” he added.
In June of last year, border officers in Vietnam seized 9.4 kilograms of rhino horn from a man who claimed that he was given the contraband in Cambodia by someone who told him he would be transporting clothes.
In January 2013, officials at the Phnom Penh airport arrested a Vietnamese national carrying 18 kilograms of rhino horns suspected to have come from Mozambique. Officials said they suspected the contraband was headed to China, according to a report by the UN Office on Drugs and Crime.
According to USAID, a resurgence of rhino horn trade to Vietnam caused a major rhino crisis hit Africa in 2008. The future status of rhinos in countries like Angola, Mozambique, Malawi and Tanzania remains in doubt, the USAID report reads.