Police officers with Banteay Meanchey provincial police’s anti-economic crime bureau stopped a pick-up truck on Sunday, seizing nearly a tonne of live turtles and Asian water monitors along National Road 59 in Malai district.
Sim Bora, a provincial police officer, said that the operation was conducted by the anti-economic crime bureau late at night as the truck was crossing into Cambodia from Thailand.
“The anti-economic crime bureau officers acted alone and went to the scene and stopped one pick-up truck, seizing a large number of wildlife animals likely from Thailand,” he said. Mr Bora added that the operation was spurred by a direct order from the provincial police chief.
Mr Bora said that after the seizure, police brought the pick-up to be kept at the provincial police station pending the search for the owner, who escaped capture during the operation.
The turtles and Asian monitors were taken by environmental and fishery officers to be released into the wild, he added.
A provincial police report on the case said that the pick-up truck was on its way from Thailand smuggling 618 turtles, weighing 406 kilos, and 70 Asian water monitors, weighing 315 kilos.
Asian water monitors have been added to the red list of threatened species by the International Union for Conservation of Nature.
According to the IUCN, the monitor species is mainly threatened by hunting because of its valuable skin used in the trade of the leather; people also use it for food and as medicine following the traditional belief that its fat helps cure various diseases.
Chap Sopharith, chief of the anti-economic bureau at the provincial police, said that police are looking for the owner in charge of the smuggling.
“We stopped the truck on National Road 59 in Malai district and we cooperated with local forces,” he said. “The driver was transporting the wildlife from Thailand into Banteay Meanchey.”
“However, we could not arrest the driver because he managed to escape,” he added. “Right now, we are looking for the driver.”