The Ministry of Justice and the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS-Cambodia) held a workshop to share knowledge of legal procedures relating to elephant tusk and rhino horn trafficking. The workshop was held on February 9 with judges, prosecutors and wildlife experts in attendance.

The workshop served as a forum for participants to discuss their experiences combating the black market ivory trade and methods for investigating and solving cases related to transnational wildlife crime, according to WCS-Cambodia.

Justice ministry secretary of state Keng Somarith told The Post on February 10 that Cambodia is a signatory to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES).

As a CITES member, Cambodia must strictly enforce national laws against all illegal wildlife trades and particularly against the trade of elephant ivory and rhino horn, Somarith said.

“We invited our judges and prosecutors to receive training from international experts about the experiences and practices of other countries of cracking down on the illegal wildlife trade,” he said.

WCS-Cambodia country director Ken Serey Rotha said the Kingdom is a transhipping country for the illegal wildlife trade though the destination countries for the contraband are typically wealthier ones, primarily China.

He said that to effectively follow CITES, court officials need to be knowledgeable about these crimes and have insight into which procedures are most effective to stop them.

“Another implication is that if these crimes are allowed to happen in Cambodia because of loosely enforced laws, it is basically an invitation for other criminals to come and operate here.

“But the direct impact of failing to crack down on wildlife crimes is a loss of dignity and respect from the international community.

“That respect is hard to earn, but easy to lose. Our leaders have been working to build Cambodia’s reputation as a reliable and responsible partner for many years,” he said.

Early last year, UK-based anti-wildlife trade NGO Traffic reported that Cambodia had seized 17,000kg of elephant ivory from 2009 to 2018, including more than 3.2 tonnes of ivory imported from Mozambique.

More recently, in December 2019, a total of 280 lion bones were seized at Phnom Penh International Airport.