Violence allegedly followed an opposition-led, fact-finding mission to a protected fishing zone in Battambang yesterday when fighting broke out after a soldier opened fired over an argument with members of a fishing community charged with guarding the area.
Cambodia National Rescue Party lawmakers Mu Sochua and Pin Ratana visited the area in Prey Chas commune yesterday following complaints from local villagers that bribes were being accepted for access to the protected zone.
“The preservation fishery zone is protected, but because of corruption, [villagers say] some . . . people can freely enter and catch fish”, Sochua said.
Forty-nine-year-old Hun Sary, head of the fishing community, said he had been accused by a “small number of villagers of allowing illegal fishing in the area”. But, he claimed the issue was resolved during discussions with the lawmakers.
However, shortly after the lawmakers left, fighting broke out between the fishing community and armed soldier Ieng Chhay Ly, who is also responsible for guarding the zone.
According to Sary, his son, Roth Saran, shouted at Chhay Ly for not protecting Sary from villagers’ accusations, leading him to fire his gun over the group’s heads.
After the shots, fighting broke out and the fishermen seized the gun’s magazine and its remaining bullets. After fleeing the scene, Chhay Ly returned an hour later with a newly loaded gun and fired at the tree above the fishermen’s heads before chasing them from the zone.
“Now I’m scared of going back to guarding the area,” Sary said. “If there are no people who come along with me [to protect me], I will not go back.”
Chhay Ly could not be reached yesterday, while Prey Chas commune police chief In Sena disputed the fisherman’s version of events.
The violence was “caused from drinking”, he said. “The young guy looked down on the soldier, who is older . . . so he shot to release his anger.”