Hunting the hunters

On a cliff overlooking the southwest plains of Cambodia, there is a bullet-ridden casino. Built in the 1920s, when Bokor was a hill resort largely reserved for wealthy French colonials, during the 1970s and 1980s it became the front line in the battle between the Khmer Rouge and government forces. These days, a different war is going on.

Six heavily armed men make their way through the forest using only the light of the moon. Carrying automatic weapons they tread carefully. Up ahead they see a movement. One man signals and the others melt on either side of the track taking up ambush positions. Ek Phirun, the head of the unit, shouts a command and a spotlight blazes, freezing the figure of a poacher. Surrounded and outgunned, the man surrenders without a struggle. This time the catch is small: a hog badger that will sell for less than $20. But like so many species in Cambodia, it is endangered – and its price tag could increase many times when it is transported further afield.

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