Interior Minister Sar Kheng and Agriculture Minister Veng Sakhun travelled by helicopter to Pursat province yesterday morning, two days after a clash between authorities and community members that saw 30 fishermen arrested.
Sakhun told local media outlets ahead of the trip that a joint force of military police, Fisheries Administration authorities and police had clashed with illegal fishermen during a crackdown on the Tonle Sap lake near Kbal Chroy Raingtoel village and Prek village in Raingtoel commune, Kandieng district.
Despite some of the villagers being armed with swords and machetes, no one was injured, he added.
Pech Chamroeun, commune police chief, yesterday said the clash occurred when, following the arrest of the fishermen and seizure of 10 boats, community members drew their boats close to the authorities’ boats in a bid to liberate the arrestees and get their boats back.
“Authorities shot four times in the sky . . . and started to chase and seized two more motorboats and four people, as well as two samurai swords,” Chamroeun said.
While the suspects and evidence were temporarily sent to the Kampong Chhnang Provincial Fisheries Administration office, the director there, Eng Cheasan, said they will soon be sent to the Pursat province office for interrogation.
After flying to Pursat, Interior Minister Kheng lauded Battambang and Banteay Meanchey provinces for their crackdowns on illegal fishing, while saying that Kampong Chhang and Kampong Thom were still lagging behind, with Pursat scoring in the middle.
Kheng’s son is governor of Battambang.
“The provinces that have not been successful yet need to put more efforts to cooperate with joint forces from the capital,” Kheng said.
He added that some community members were unaware that their fellows engaged in illegal activities.
“We need to explain them to understand about the law,” he said, and added, “family scale fishing that uses legal fishing devices will not be intercepted by the authorities”.