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Tough penalties for wild food

Tough penalties for wild food

The government has begun a crackdown against restaurants in the capital that

serve wildlife. At a meeting November 16 the municipality compelled 50

restaurant owners to sign a pledge to stop selling wildlife meat.

Vice

Governor Seng Tong watched as the restauranteurs put their signature and thumb

prints on the paper, witnessed by enforcement staff from various ministries, the

police, and WildAid, a US environmental NGO.

Tong said the crackdown

would begin the following week in the Russey Keo district. Law enforcement

officers would pose as customers and the signed papers would be used against

those found flouting the law.

"It will be a hot measure against all

[types of] wildlife traffickers," he said. He urged district authorities to

enforce compliance: "If the trade continues [after next week] and the

restaurants are still found selling wildlife meat, it will be a lapse on your

part."

As an added incentive, the municipality also announced cash

rewards for enforcement officers for the market value of any confiscated

wildlife or wildlife products. Any less, Tong explained, would only encourage

staff to collude with traffickers.

Restaurant owners were instructed to

alter their menus and display a sign outside their premises stating they no

longer serve wildlife meat. Many of Phnom Penh's restaurants have long listed

exotic cuisine on their menus. Among the species regularly dished up were

python, pangolin, bear, turtle, fruit bats, deer and wild boar.

Some

owners said government officials were as much to blame for the problem. Lim

Khun, who owns the Heng Lay Restaurant across the Japanese bridge, freely

admitted his restaurant served wild boar, turtle and deer.

"However, most

of my customers [asking for such dishes] are government officials and Chinese

people," he said.

Despite laws prohibiting the killing, transport, sale

or purchase of wildlife or wildlife products, the practice has

continued.

In its campaign in August, the government used the precepts of

Buddhism to link the trade in and consumption of wildlife to bad karma in this

life and the next.

Suwanna Gauntlett, head of WildAid, which has led the

campaign, said it had targeted demand and supply, and the measures were paying

off.

Kong Song, owner of Ha-bourn Evening Restaurant on Street 182, said

he had specialized in serving turtle meat since opening in 1996, but had now

taken it off the menu.

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