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Vendors out of pocket

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Fishing lot owners, workers and shareholders gather at the Agriculture Ministry yesterday to request intervention after they were suspended from using lots acquired in a bidding process.

More than  50 fishing vendors, workers and shareholders gathered outside the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries yesterday to request the use of hired fishing lots that were suspended by Prime Minister Hun Sen pending an investigation into allegations of corruption in the bidding process.

On Friday, the premier ordered that three fishing lots in Kampong Cham province, one in Takeo and three in Prey Veng that were hired in October be kept vacant until next year, following allegations that successful bidders had bribed officials in exchange for securing the lots.

Hun Sen also ordered that the Anti-Corruption Unit oversee rental bidding for fishing lots nationwide.

“We all need to meet with the minister … to ask him to help us,” Trann Samrang, a vendor representative who hired one of the lots in Kampong Cham province, said yesterday.

He added that vendors could retrieve money used to hire the lots, but they would not be reimbursed for the purchase of fishing equipment, which totalled about US$250,000 for all three lots in Kampong Cham province.

“I don’t have money to pay for the workers’ salary, because I spent all of it on fishing equipment,” Trann Samrang said, adding that the ministry should assist vendors financially.

Loung Sophun, another vendor who hired a lot in Kampong Cham, denied that he was involved in bribery during the bidding process.

Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Minister Chan Sarun and director of the fisheries department at the ministry, Nao Thuok, could not be reached for comment yesterday.

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