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Minister wants tougher fisheries crackdown

May Titthara / Khmer Times Share:
Armed officials stand guard on a group of illegal fishermen. Supplied

Interior Minister Sar Kheng has ordered government officials and department heads to crack down on anyone committing fishing crimes, telling a committee meeting that lax efforts to “educate” repeat offenders continued to fail and exacerbate the problem.

According to Deputy National Police Chief Kirth Chantharith, Mr. Kheng told the attendees of a meeting about illegal fishing on the Tonle Sap and other areas on Friday that offenders must be arrested and charged.

He said investigations were leading police to the masterminds and culprits, but rarely did they lead to any arrests.

“The actions of the fishing crimes crackdowns of the past have been conducted with difficulties, but meanwhile, there are many offenders who have been arrested and sent to the court,” he said.

“Some people were taken to be educated and they still should be sent to the court as well if they continue to commit the crime.”

Mr. Kheng traveled by helicopter last week over the Tonle Sap lake in Kampong Chhnang, Kampong Thom, Battambang and Pursat provinces.

According to an Interior Ministry report, since the end of 2016 police have had 328 cases of fishing offenses. Materials were confiscated and destroyed in 316 cases and 37 offenders were arrested.

Five of the cases ended in fines.

Mr. Kheng has had harsh words for his officials in the past about their ability to fight fishing crimes and their willingness to arrest suspects, some of whom are politically powerful in areas along the country’s waterways.

“All provincial governors around the Tonle Sap lake will be dismissed from their positions if their provinces still have many fishing crimes,” he told a crowd at a 2016 year-ending conference in Siem Reap province in December.

Long Sochet, head of the Coalition of Cambodian Fishers, said Interior Ministry officials have been working hard to prevent illegal fishing on a large scale.

He lauded the government for focusing on the fish traders who commit the crimes and encourage others to join them. “I hope that fishing offenses will decrease and fishing yields will increase instead,” he said.

A 2016 annual report from the Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Ministry stated that the government’s revenue from fishing products decreased compared with 2015 and exports decreased by nearly 2,000 tons.

Income from the fisheries sector decreased by about $466,000 in 2016 compared with 2015.

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