Takeo provincial authorities said Tuesday that they have discovered smuggled poultry products from Vietnam that violate a government ban on all imports of birds and eggs in order to prevent the spread of deadly avian influenza.
The officials said they met Tuesday to organize a crackdown and that they are investigating whether local authorities aided the smuggling operations.
Four Cambodians have died of the virus, which is transmitted from sick chickens to humans. Animal health authorities have been searching for the source of the virus in Cambodia since it first appeared in the country last year.
“I told all officials, especially soldiers, police and military in districts along the border, to stop the smuggling of chickens and ducks and their eggs into the country,” Takeo provincial Deputy Governor Kang Sam Oeurn said. “I blamed [the officials] because businessmen still have some ducks from Vietnam.”
Last week, Vietnamese farmers with 4,000 ducks were discovered and sent back, he said.
Neang Suon, deputy governor of Angkor Borei district, said the ducks were found in his district.
“I already told the owner of the ducks to take the ducks back and to sign an agreement promising not to come back into Cambodia again,” he said. “If they are arrested taking ducks back into Cambodia they will be punished.”
But Toek Tong Lim, governor of Kiri Vong district, said that even if officials organize a crackdown, smugglers can still enter the country by river boat. He said that on Friday his district will hold a meeting to investigate “who the smugglers are and who is helping them.”
He added: “If we find out, [officials] will be demoted or if they do it against orders they will be sent to the court.”
The Ministry of Agriculture acknowledged the problem in Takeo on Tuesday.
“We have tried to crack down but still some [smuggling] happened,” Agriculture Secretary of State Yim Voeunthan said. “Sometimes it is difficult because the smuggling is done at nighttime.”