Although Cambodian farmers in provinces close to Vietnam continue to report missing cattle, officials there said Monday they doubt the livestock is being smuggled across the border, at least not at rates at which rustling occurred in previous years.
Svay Rieng Governor Hun Neng said a police crackdown on rustling has put a noticeable dent on illegal trade. So it is unlikely thieves are moving herds into Vietnam, he said, even though he admitted that last year cross-border smuggling occurred within his province.
Chea Vuth, Kompong Speu’s deputy judicial police chief, speculated that thieves are taking the cattle to local butchers, then selling the meat in markets throughout the province.
But if smugglers were able to make it into Vietnam, they would have no problem finding a market for Cambodian cattle, said Meng Suon, Kampot second deputy governor. Especially if local merchants thought the cattle originated from Vietnam, he added.
It’s unlikely that smugglers who transport cattle in trucks could outrun police, who have recently strengthened patrols, Chea Vuth said.
As part of their effort to stop the illegal trade, authorities have tried to educate villagers about the value of maintaining local livestock herds, Meng Suon said.
Since the authorities have clamped down on the illegal trade, the number of cattle herded by thieves across the border has dropped, Chea Vuth said. The number of stolen cattle has also fallen, authorities said. Officials did not have any specific figures for the amount of stolen livestock.
Chea Vuth said that farmers need to play a more active role in preventing such thievery. They should keep their herds in secure fields and not allow them to wander freely into nearby forests, he said.
Although the cross-border cattle trade may be a source of cheap meat, it can cause the spread of deadly diseases among livestock populations, since smugglers avoid health inspectors.