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Shots fired on Tonle Sap

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Authorities with some of the shemen detained. Supplied

Twenty-nine illegal fishermen were arrested after shots were fired on Tonle Sap lake on Tuesday night, bringing the number of fishery offenses to 130 in the first 25 days of the year.
Long Sreng, deputy director of the Interior Ministry’s anti-economic crimes department, said yesterday that the incident between police and illegal fishermen on Tonle Sap lake occurred in Riang Til commune in Pursat province’s Kandieng district.
Police arrested 29 illegal fishermen and confiscated 19 boats, he added.
“Our police officials fired into the air to threaten the illegal fishermen and prevent their escape,” he said. “They were sent to the Pursat provincial police station.”
Agriculture Minister Veng Sakhon, who is also chairman of a committee to curb illegal fishing on the Tonle Sap lake, said yesterday that Interior Minister Sar Kheng traveled by helicopter to check on the situation at the lake after the illegal fishermen were arrested.
“After inspection, the committee recognizes that some fishing offenses are still occurring, especially in Kampong Thom and Pursat provinces,” Mr. Sakhon said.
He said that from January 1 until yesterday, the inter-ministerial committee and provincial sub-committee around Tonle Sap lake and Kandal province had collaborated to crack down on 130 fishing offenses.
Evidence – including nets and illegal fishing equipment – was confiscated and destroyed in 126 cases, eight cases involving 37 suspects were sent to court and in three cases, the suspects were fined and released.
Speaking at the Siem Reap provincial hall on December 28, Mr. Kheng ordered the continued suppression of large-scale fishing crimes occurring around the lake.
“All provincial governors around the Tonle Sap lake will be dismissed from their positions if their provinces still have many fishing crimes,” he said at the time.
Pursat provincial police chief Sarun Chanthy could not be reached for comment yesterday.
Long Sochet, head of the Coalition of Cambodian Fishers, said that from his observation, Interior Ministry officials were working hard to prevent illegal fishing.
“Currently, fishing yields have decreased sharply,” he said, adding that he hoped fishing offenses would decrease so yields would rise.
According to the 2016 annual report of the Agriculture Ministry, revenue from the export of fish products in 2016 decreased by nearly half compared with 2015, while the total export of fish products decreased by nearly 2,000 tons over the previous year.
Income from the fisheries sector in 2016 was $565,284, a decrease of about $465,000 compared with 2015.
Speaking in 2011, Prime Minister Hun Sen told fishermen to withdraw and stop private exploitation of 35 fishing zones in the provinces surrounding the Tonle Sap lake, which included Kampong Chhnang, Pursat, Battambang, Siem Reap and Kompong Thom.

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