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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Selling Rivers and Confusion

Selling Rivers and Confusion

Reprinted with permission from Nokorbal Pracheachun (People's Police) newspaper,

Sept. 29 edition

A signboard in front of a house reads: "Air for Sale." The Department of

Aquatic Products, in contrast, doesn't use such signboards to advertise their wares,

lest they shock the fish, large and small. Instead, they go from merchant to merchant,

whispering softly, "rivers for sale."

Hearing the news, the merchants hurriedly rush into the ring in the hope of making


The merchants immediately bid on the Bassac and the lower Mekong rivers, cutting

them into sections and making individual fishing lots. The poor people who used to

catch fish in the rivers for their families' soups have since been forbidden from

doing so. Anyone who dares to violate the orders of the river owners will be arrested

under the charge of illegal fishing.

The lot owners do whatever they want without feeling afraid of the laws of the government.

They catch fish of all sizes in order to become richer, without weeding out the smaller

fry. At the moment, a fearsome problem is that the merchants are scrambling to extract

as many trei brar fish fry for export, threatening that variety of fish with extinction.

As for the Department of Aquatic Products, they are turning a deaf ear to what is

happening, while proclaiming that they are preventing illegal fishing. But the ones

they arrest are none other than the poor people, who, dating back to the time of

their ancestors, have traditionally never had to ask permission to catch fish for

their families to eat. The merchants who do break the law, on the other hand, are

not touched.

The Department of Aquatic Products should inspect the fishing activities of those

merchants. Or do they think that the fish species in the rivers are not becoming

extinct, or that the merchants and the local authorities have to support each other

in order to survive?

- Anonymous Translated by Moeun Chhean Nariddh



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