March 2, 2023
PHNOM PENH – Prime Minister Hun Sen has said that the laws will soon be amended to allow people to raise rare animals, citing a recent case where peacocks were seized from a family in Kampong Chhnang province.
“If they are breaking the law, then my very own family would be the first to be convicted,” he said of his own family members’ love for animals.
While presiding over a graduation ceremony for students of the Institute of Technology of Cambodia (ITC) on March 1, the premier described how he had intervened and ordered the birds returned.
On February 16, a mobile intervention team from the Forestry Administration (FA), in cooperation with Wildlife Alliance, confiscated six peacocks from the Yim Sam Oeun family in Sanlong village of Boribor district’s Trapaing Chan commune, saying that raising and selling them is illegal.
The confiscation drew the ire of social media users, who urged the relevant institutions to motivate people to raise rare species “because it contributes to conservation”.
Hun Sen explained that he did not blame anyone for the seizure, but had instructed an immediate amendment to the relevant law.
“I have asked officials to begin an immediate study of the laws concerning the rearing of rare animal species. If the law is out of date, then it must be amended. On February 28, I ordered the peacocks to be returned to their owner. I would have intervened earlier, but I had been very busy,” he said.
“I was unaware that he was breaching the law, because that is not my area of expertise. If indeed it was illegal, then we must amend the law at once. If people are to be prosecuted, I will be the first – I have personally raised more peacocks than were seized in Kampong Chhnang,” he joked.
The premier described how his own family had a long history of raising animals, “never for meat but out of love” for rare species.
“I would be convicted, and then my son Hun Manit would follow. The third person in court would be my nephew Hun To. I don’t know how many species To has raised, but Phnom Penh residents are used to seeing the beautiful hornbills that he releases to fly all over the city. The fourth to be convicted would be my youngest daughter Hun Mali. Her houses are rich in animals,” he said.
The prime minister also provided 10 million riel ($2,500) to the family of the peacock owner in Kampong Chhnang, so they can renovate their farm and receive visitors who want to see the birds.
He called on more people to begin raising endangered species, saying the law would be amended soon.
“I have asked the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries and other relevant institutions to examine the law and identify any points that need revising. It will be no problem for parliament to meet and amend the law before the general election. A cabinet meeting will take an hour or two, and then it can go to the National Assembly. I can sign a sub-decree in just a few moments,” he said.
Agriculture minister Dith Tina said during an interview with a French radio station that some of Cambodia’s wildlife protection laws were written when the country was far less prosperous, and that some people bred rare species for food.
“What the prime minister said was correct. People are no longer starving, and they really love these animals. Going forward, we will draw up legislation to allow people to raise more species.
“We will support them with advice on raising healthy animals. At the same time, controls will be put in place to ensure that their motivation is pure and that they are not raising them for illegal trading or food,” he said.
He added that the agriculture ministry would begin reviewing the content of existing laws and prepare to amend them, in line with international laws, as this would give people the opportunity to participate in helping to conserve rare animals.