Minister: Stop Illegal Fishing or Step Down
Interior Minister Sar Kheng has publically warned government officials in the areas surrounding the Tonle Sap Lake that they will be fired if they continued to allow illegal fishing.
Speaking at the closing ceremony of the “2016 Annual Working Results and the Direction of 2017” at the Siem Reap Provincial Hall on Wednesday morning, he demanded that provincial governors do more to stop fishing crimes in the Tonle Sap Lake.
“All provincial governors around the Tonle Sap Lake will be dismissed from their positions if they let fishing crimes occur in their provinces,” he was quoted as saying on the National Police website.
The deputy prime minister added that the government will create a taskforce, led by National Police chief Neth Savoeun, to crack down on illegal fishing in the lake and will provide the group with speedboats to conduct better enforcement.
“These actions will be carried out regularly. I will also fly over the area to check every two weeks to a month,” he said.
He stressed the need to address this issue immediately after he noticed illegal fishing activities being rampantly committed in a portion of the lake that was in Battambang province as he was flying over it recently.
Long Sochet, head of the Coalition of Cambodia Fishers, lauded Mr. Kheng’s initiative, but said that local government officials needed to be held accountable for the crimes committed in their respective provinces.
“We see that they crack down on the crime, but that is just to collect benefits from the perpetrators. We don’t see the perpetrators being punished before the law,” he said.
He added that officials often conspired with the perpetrators instead of putting an end to illegal fishing.
“If we want to prevent it 100 percent, the officials must be made to obey the law,” he said.
In 2011, Prime Minister Hun Sen announced a halt to the private exploitation of 35 fishing zones in the provinces surrounding the Tonle Sap Lake, including Kampong Chhnang, Pursat, Battambang, Siem Reap and Kompong Thom provinces.
He said that 77 percent of the lake’s fishing zones were designated for fishermen, but the remaining 23 percent had to be kept as protected areas. The government has repeatedly implored fishermen to stop illegal fishing activities, including the removal of fishing lots intended to maintain and improve the resources available there, but offenders remain brazen and undeterred.
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