Vietnam Egg Smugglers Could Face Charges

The owners of 159,000 duck eggs seized Sunday morning in Takeo province could face trial, after a government investigation showed the eggs were imported from Vietnam against the orders of the ministries of commerce and agriculture, officials said Monday.

Sunday morning, officials confiscated seven vehicles and their cargoes of 159,000 duck eggs, said En Som Ol, director of Ta­keo Customs Office.

“They fought against the ministries’ announcement to stop im­porting all kinds of foods or products made from bird meat,” said a Camcontrol official, the Ministry of Commerce’s quality inspection department, who declined to be named. “We are preparing a re­port to send to the Commerce Ministry in order to take legal action against the egg owners.”

The egg owners and vehicles were impounded at a Camcontrol office, he said.

Some of the egg owners said that some Cambodian duck eggs were among those seized, he said.

Cambodia has banned the importation of birds and bird products from Vietnam, where the bird flu has ravaged fowl farms, said Suon Sothoeun, deputy director of the Depart­ment of Animal Health and Pro­duction, at the Ministry of Agri­cul­ture.

Also Monday, government officials, provincial governors and NGO representatives convened at the Agriculture Ministry to discuss emergency procedures in case of an outbreak in Cambodia.

There have been no reported cases in Cambodia of the H5N1 virus, which has claimed at least five lives in Vietnam.

If an outbreak is reported in Cambodia, a quarantine will be announced around the suspected case and all birds in that area will be destroyed, Suon Sothoeun said.

At the meeting Monday, government officials reiterated the need for tighter security along the Vietnam border, especially at smaller entry points.

Kao Phal, director of the De­part­ment of Animal Health and Pro­duction, said his staff have been sent to provinces bordering Viet­nam to help control the frontier.

Some have also raised concerns about the economic effects of a massive bird culling on Cam­bodian farms.

“If we destroy all the birds, who is responsible for the people?” asked Nuon Pen, vice governor of Svay Rieng province.

If an outbreak does occur, a committee headed by the Agri­cul­­ture Ministry will meet to determine if the government will compensate farmers for their slaughtered birds and how much that stipend would be, Suon Sothoeun said.

Last week, several chickens died at a farm in a village on the western outskirts of Phnom Penh, said Stephanie Desvaux, technical adviser with the De­part­ment of Animal Health and Pro­duction.

Veterinarians suspect that the birds died of Newcastle disease or cholera, both of which are deadly to birds but cannot be transferred to humans. Samples of the dead birds’ beaks were sent Jan 13 to a laboratory in France for further testing. Results are expected this week.

The World Health Organi­zation issued a statement last week saying that humans cannot contract the bird flu by consuming infected fowl.


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