Police and soldiers descended on a community of fishermen on Thursday evening amid an ongoing clash that has seen the fishermen drive away officers attempting to seize equipment allegedly used for illegal fishing, officials said.
“We are now on the lake and chasing the boats and the floating houses away from the banned fishing plots, and some of them are moving from the lake,” said Vithea Rith, the director of Kandal province’s fishing administration cantonment.
Mean Davin, deputy governor of Koh Thom district, said recent clashes were the latest in a series of disputes with the fishermen, who live on the lake and regularly travel into protected fishing areas.
On Wednesday, more than 100 fishing boats—carrying three to four fishermen each—were fishing in protected areas inside the lake when they were approached by 35 police and military police officers and provincial soldiers, Mr. Davin said.
As the joint force began seizing the group’s equipment, the fishermen raised their paddles and threatened to attack, he said.
“We went to the banned area and saw that 105 boats were fishing illegally. We stopped one boat and seized some materials, but they surrounded our officials and attempted to attack us,” he said.
“Our officers released the boat because we were worried that violence could happen,” he said, adding that the fishermen retreated to a different area of the lake.
“We have made four attempts to stop those people from fishing in the banned fishing lots, but they are not scared of our measures,” he said.
The fishing administration’s Mr. Rith said that about $250,000 had been requested from the Agriculture Ministry to fund a plan to combat illegal fishing by the Cham Muslim fishermen and others on the lake’s protected areas.
“We allowed those Cham people to fish as families in one area, but they always enter the nearby banned area to fish illegally when our authorities are out for meetings,” he said.
“If the ministry approves our proposal, we will use this budget to buy water pipes and wires to fit in the water in the banned area so people are not able to fish,” he said.
Until then, locals have been employed to monitor the areas and keep out rogue fishermen, he said.
pheap@cambodiadaily.com
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