Court Questions Official’s Son Over Hunting Photos

The Pailin Provincial Court on Monday questioned the 23-year-old son of the provincial director of rural development over photographs posted last month on Facebook that showed him holding a rifle and displaying the cadavers of protected wildlife, officials said.

Provincial prosecutor Chum Sensothea said the court summoned Koeun Nam Chhauk on July 28 following a police investigation into the photographs, in which the suspect poses with a dead leopard cat, squirrels and two mouse deer.

“We will not permit anyone to escape the law if we find them guilty of killing endangered animals,” he said, adding that during questioning, Mr. Nam Chhauk denied he had been hunting.

Mr. Sensothea said the court would summon officials from the provincial forestry administration and the provincial environment department to gather more information related to the case.

“The case is moving ahead but the investigation is still ongoing,” he said, declining to comment further.

Kim Sokha, director of the provincial environment department, said he already knew the identity of about 10 farmers in the area who were trapping endangered wildlife and selling the meat to restaurants in Pailin City.

But he said members of the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces posed the greatest threat to protected wildlife in the area.

“Most hunters of protected wildlife are soldiers stationed along the [Thai-Cambodian] border…and it is difficult to stop them because they are armed and sometimes retaliate when our officials try to crack down,” he said.

Mr. Nam Chhauk, who admitted he posted the damning photographs onto Facebook himself, denies killing the animals.

“The court asked me where the photographs were taken, I told them they were taken at a farmland in Pailin City’s Boyakha commune,” he said.

“The court asked me ‘did I kill wildlife with this gun?’ I told them I had never killed wildlife,” he said.

“The court told me that even if I didn’t kill the animals, I would still be found guilty for using an illegal gun.”

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