Dry season in Prey Veng and the vast lake on the western fringe of town has shrunk to a narrow channel of water.
Amid the rubbish that has collected on the dried up lake’s bed, impromptu wooden shacks offer drinks and snacks to the fishing community that has settled there.
Vieng Bau, 27, lives on a boat with his wife and three children in the lake. Like most of the 100 or so ethnic Vietnamese families who live around the lake, Vieng Bau is a fisherman.
“During the Water Festival is the best time for fishing,” he says. “I can catch 20-30 kilogrammes per day, but at other times I might catch only 4-5 kilogrammes.”
Vieng Bau receives between 5,000 and 6,000 riel per kilogramme for his fish. Sometimes he will drive his boat three kilometres out on the lake to catch the best fish.
“In previous years there were a lot of fish,” he says. “But this year the water level has been low and there are not many fish.” While we are speaking a group of villagers arrive on a boat that has just travelled along the narrow channel.
They are returning from the village of Anlong Trea, 5 kilometres away.
The commute each day costs 1,500 riel per person and an addition 1,000 riel for a motorbike.
“I make this trip every day,” says Duch Sao, 38, a seasoned rice farmer.
Duch Sao is more fortunate than Vieng Bau as he owns a hectare of land where he can grow rice. During the January to March dry season he farms, when the rains come he reverts to fishing.
“Farming is better than fishing,” he says. “Fishing is only for filling our pot.”
Duch Sao can produce four to five tonnes of rice for which he receives around 800 riel per kilogram. Unlike Vieng Bau, this year promises to be a good one for Duch Sao as he has used chemical sprays to improve his yield.
“The rice crop is better than previous years,” he says. Come the wet season, however, he too might start complaining about a lack of fish.
TRANSLATION BY RANN REUY