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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Storms make life miserable for Koh Kong fishermen

Storms make life miserable for Koh Kong fishermen

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081216_05.jpg

Residents struggle with poverty and rising unemployment as blustery winds and driving rain ground the island's fleets

POST ARCHIVE

Snails used to live in abundance in mangrove forests, but scavanging options have decreased this year due to bad weather.

Severe weather on Cambodia's Koh Kong island has grounded fishing vessels and left residents of Pack Khlang village struggling to secure food supplies, commune chief Chea Kimseng told the Post Monday.

"Between 60 and 70 percent of the 2,400 families living in my commune will soon be too poor to eat. The lives of fishermen are becoming miserable," he said.

Pack Khlang village is on the outskirts of Koh Kong's town centre. With 60 percent of the jobs in the village sea-based, the village is largely supported by subsistence fishing. There are currently no jobs available at construction sites or in factories, Chea Kimseng said.

Since May, the villagers of Pack Khlang say they have been unable to go fishing or crabbing because the weather has been too severe to launch their small boats, with heavy rains and wind flagging their efforts.

Sreng Pin, 38, said he has never seen such big waves.

"The big waves have prevented us from fishing. Because we only have small boats, they would tip in such swells," he said.

Sreng Pin, who has been a fisherman for ten years, said his family's quality of life has been getting worse. Since the beginning of the rainy season in mid-May, he has had no income.

"I am currently forced to borrow money to buy food and support my five children's [school] lessons," Sreng Pin said. "I have to wait two more months before I can go fishing and earn money to pay them back."

Villagers also complain the price of food has doubled since last year. saying that cabbage has jumped to 4,000 riels (US$1) per kilogram from 2,000 earlier this year.

In an attempt to compensate for increased staple food prices, fishermen have raised the price of crab from 5,000-25,000 riels per kilogram to 8,000-30,000 riels per kilogram. But with smaller catches due to bad weather, the price jump has not made a difference.

Chea Kimseng said he has tried to help villagers feed their families but fears he will not be able to continue without substantial government support.

"I have been commune chief for two years now, and I have spent between $5,000 and $7,000 each year providing rice to the poorest families. I cannot afford to keep doing that much longer. I want the government to help create jobs in my commune by attracting investors to this area," he said.

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