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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Save the Fish Prince Norodom Sihanouk,

Save the Fish Prince Norodom Sihanouk,

Dear Your Majesty,

I know you must be very busy, but there is an urgent matter that needs your attention!

A number of international non-government organizations (NGOs), Lao fishermen, and

Cambodian villagers are extremely concerned about the enormous amount of explosives

fishing that has taken place in the Mekong River in Stung Treng province this year.

My organization is working with local people on the Lao side of the Cambodia/Lao

border to conserve drastically decreasing fish stocks in the Mekong River for future

generations of Laotians and Cambodians, and the huge amount of explosives use for

fishing in Cambodia is one of the serious problems that needs to be solved in order

to achieve this goal.

Between January and May, 1993, I personally heard 10 to 20 "bombs" going

off a day in the Mekong River along the border. I have also seen the "bombing"

with my own eyes on numerous occasions. It indiscriminately kills both juveniles

and mature fish, and only a small portion of the fish that die can be retrieved when

this wasteful method is used. The UNTAC river command in Stung Treng claims it has

been unable to control this destruction because of the remoteness of the area. While

this destructive fishing methods is only occasionally used in Stung Treng during

the high-water rainy season, villagers and my organization are concerned that usage

will increase again, as it has every year for the last 10 years or more, once the

water levels begin to go down in December.

The local government is turning a blind eye to the problem, and it is widely known

that soldiers from the Cambodian People's Party have been actively selling explosives

to villagers. They also engage in the practice themselves, even though it is against

Cambodian laws to do so! Local Cambodian and Lao fishermen are afraid to speak up

against the destruction, which will ultimately affect countless numbers of villagers

who eat fish from the lower Mekong River, but they are very concerned. Rare river

dolphins in the area have also been killed by explosives.

Local Lao government officials have asked the Stung Treng government to stop people

from using explosives to catch fish, but no action has been taken by the authorities.

Meanwhile, whole fish populations are being decimated by the practice, which is also

injuring many of the explosives users themselves. Children are often recruited to

do this dangerous job. The explosives are even for sale in the Stung Treng market!

Your help in solving this problem would be greatly appreciated by the international

community and local people in Cambodia and Laos. The future of people living along

the Mekong River depends on it.

I appeal, in the name of future generations of Cambodians and Laotians, for your

Majesty's help to ensure that the new Cambodian government stops this explosives

fishing.

My organization would also like to take this opportunity to express our support for

your initiatives to protect Cambodia's forests and environment from further destruction.

Future generations will certainly appreciate you for working to conserve and restore

Cambodia's environment.Respecti...ly,
- Ian Baird Regional Director Earth Island Institute

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