Cambodia’s lion distraction

Media jumped on the tale of Hun Sen's intervention in the case of a privately 'owned' lion, for all the wrong reasons.

After videos circulated on social media, an 18-month-old lion cub living as a “pet” in a Phnom Penh villa, was seized on June 27 by the Phnom Tamao Wildlife Rescue Center, run by both the government and Wildlife Alliance. The “owner” was fined the equivalent of US$30,000 by the Ministry of Agriculture.

Social media erupted in debate over the sins and virtues of raising a wild animal in a small urban garden. The story was then jumped on by international media, including the British Broadcasting Corporation and CNN, which typically only give ear to Cambodia in articles relating to the Khmer Rouge or mine-detecting rats.

There are so many reasons this should not have been as newsworthy as it was. It would seem a perfect tu quoque that people are so fond of nowadays: Why heap so much scorn on one case in Cambodia when there are an estimated 10,000 lions and big cats in homes across the United States? Western voices should look at that before one case in Phnom Penh, no?

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