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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Fishing lot chaos sparks arrests

Fishing lot chaos sparks arrests

Thirty-four Kampong Thom villagers are facing prosecution for illegal fishing in

areas they say were designated for public use by Prime Minister Hun Sen in January.

An official investigation began on May 18 into allegations that the villagers had

illegally taken fish catches estimated at a value of $3,800 from a private fishing

lot. The villagers and NGOs insist that the Boeung Prasan lake where they fished

became a community fishing area in January.

"The villagers did not commit any mistake because they fished in that area after

the sub-decree [on cutting and reducing fish lots] had been signed by Prime Minister

Hun Sen," said Yim Lam, Director of the Poor People's Development Organization.

"They shouldn't blame the villagers who respected the government rules."

The dispute stems from the Prime Minister's decision in January to end the violence

and anarchy linked to the Kingdom's fishing lot system by unilaterally turning over

large swaths of private fishing lot concessions to public use.

Tep Bunarith, Network and Advocacy Officer of the Cambodian Environment Preservation

Association (CEPA) told the Post that in the redrawn maps of Fishing Lot 6 which

the villagers are accused of violating, the area where the villagers were arrested

is clearly within the newly-designated community fishing area.

The problem, says Bunarith, is that Kampong Thom provincial officials have yet to

confirm that the sub-decree signed by Hun Sen has actually gone into effect, in spite

of the fact that the sub-decree specifies it takes effect upon signing by the Prime

Minister.

Huot Hy, Kampong Thom court Prosecutor, told the Post that he had accused the villagers

of attempted wrongful damage of property and the case had been handed to an investigating

judge.

Hy says he wants to identify the village leaders who led the fishing expedition to

the disputed area and prosecute them under Article 52 of the penal code.

Hy rejected villagers claims that Boeung Prasan lake had been designated a community

fishing area in January, accusing them of "acting too quickly" following

the signing of the sub-decree.

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