Officials probed over ASF collusion

Content image - Phnom Penh Post
Government specialists explained about ASF in a press conference at the Council of Ministers on Thursday. Heng Chivoan

Government spokesperson Phay Siphan said on Thursday that specialists are probing officials who have allegedly colluded with traders in transporting pigs from Vietnam without authorisation.

Siphan also encouraged local people to report officials found to have allowed the illegal transportation of pigs from Vietnam.

The move came as African swine fever (ASF) has spread to Kandal province following outbreaks in Rattanakkiri, Tbong Khmum, Svay Rieng and Takeo provinces.

During a press conference at the Council of Ministers on Thursday, Siphan, who also holds the position of minister attached to the prime minister, said the import of ASF-infected pigs could adversely affect public health and the pig-raising business in the Kingdom.

He said the investigation followed reports that a group of soldiers had allowed pig smuggling from Vietnam through Svay Rieng province. This violated a directive issued by the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries.

“We cannot disclose further details because we are still working on [the case]. The government gives priority to people’s wellbeing. Their interests are of great significance to us so we try our utmost to serve them as suggested by Prime Minister Hun Sen,” he said.

Siphan called on villagers living near border corridors to report to authorities cases of officials being involved in the illegal import of pigs from neighbouring countries, especially Vietnam. They could do so by any means, including Facebook, he said.

The press conference came a day after Siphan shared a Facebook post by Hun Chea – a senior police official and a nephew of Prime Minister Hun Sen – claiming a group of soldiers in Svay Rieng province had aided traders in illegally transporting pigs from Vietnam.

The illegal act, the post said, had an adverse impact on domestic pig raising operations in the province.

Ben Sarun, the commander of Svay Rieng sub-regional division, could not be reached for comment on Thursday.

Svay Rieng provincial police chief Koeng Khorn declined to comment, saying he was in a meeting.

Neither provincial governor Men Vibol nor provincial agriculture department director Thach Ratana could be reached for comment.

On Monday, the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries released a press release naming Svay Rieng and Takeo as the latest provinces to have suffered from an ASF outbreak after it was first reported in Ratanakkiri and then Tbong Khmum.

Figures provided by the Department of Animal Health and Production on Thursday said 2,557 pigs had died from ASF, of which about seven per cent were culled to prevent a further spread.

Tan Phannara, the director-general of the General Department of Animal Health and Production, said during the first six months of this year, 55 cases of illegal pig smuggling from Vietnam were recorded. Of these, 1,482 pigs were confiscated. However, none of them tested positive for ASF.

“Crackdowns on the illegal import of pigs have been carried out more frequently after an order from the Minister [of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries]. But we acknowledge that clampdowns in some provinces remain weak,” he said.

On Monday, the minister, Veng Sakhon, removed Ry Davin, the head of the animal health office in Tbong Khmum province, from his position for failing to prevent an ASF outbreak.

Ol Dorin, the head of the animal health office in Kandal province told The Post on Thursday that an ASF outbreak has been reported in Sa’ang district’s Kraing Yov commune. As of Thursday, he said more than 500 pigs had died from ASF.

“The pigs died one after another. Now we are working [to contain the virus],” he said.