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CAMBODIA – Stern action against illegal harvesting of wild orchids

Tith Kongnov Khmer Times Thu, December 22, 2020

A wild orchid in Kesar Kol jungle. MoE

PHNOM PENH – The Ministry of Environment has directed its law enforcement officers and relevant authorities to take stern action against those involved in the illegal trade of rare and endangered wild orchids.

Despite several warnings, Neth Pheaktra, a ministry spokesman, said there was still an unsustainable harvest of wild orchids going on in protected areas.

“These orchids are harvested illegally and they are sold to buyers or exported to neighbouring countries,” he said, adding that although the wild orchid trade has been prohibited, there were still buyers, sellers and exporters.

When asked if they had taken to task any of the illegal harvesters and traders, Pheaktra said, so far no one has been, as the amounts seized were “little” and thus they were let off with a stern warning.

However, he added, that they plan to take action on these illegal harvesters, sellers, or buyers as a deterrent by using the existing environmental law.

“We have been warning all along but it’s time to enforce the law,” he said.

Pheaktra warned the big business traders that this time around it may not be just a warning but they may have to face the legal consequences.

In Cambodia, he said, there are five areas with wild orchids – the Cardamom Mountains, the central lowlands, highlands, coastal areas, islands and mountains.

The two areas affected by the illegal harvesting of wild orchids for commercial purposes are the Cardamom mountains and the plateau area.

“Wild orchids are rare and endangered in Cambodia. We need to protect and conserve them. That is why we have banned people from harvesting them,” said Pheaktra, adding that studies carried out have not indicated a clear number of genera and thus if there are illegal harvesting of wild orchids, the nation may lose rare species to other countries via trade.

He added the illegal trade of wild orchids started to boom following a viral post on social media saying that they can fetch a hefty price.

Chan Somaly, an Undersecretary of State at the Ministry of Environment, said the SokAn Phnom Kulen Research and Conservation Center’s team have identified 170 of the wild orchid species from the about 700 other species nationwide.

Under the Law on Protected Areas, she said, Article 59, sub-section 3 and 4 clearly stipulate that transportation and harvesting of natural resource by-products without permission and the collection of by-products of natural resources without permission are subjected to fines in cash of $250 to $2,500.

Article 61, point 4, stipulates that cutting, pruning, felling, collecting, destroying, encroaching, and stockpiling endangered or rare plants as defined by the declamation of the Ministry of Environment shall be punished as natural resource offences or jail sentences for between one to five years and/or a fine of between $3,750 and $37,500.

SOURCE: Khmer Times, Cambodia Tue, December 22, 2020

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