The Association of Khmer-Vietnamese in the Kingdom of Cambodia (AKVKC) and owners of fish farms that utilise floating cages and who live in floating houses on the rivers running through Phnom Penh have submitted a letter to Phnom Penh municipal Hall requesting a postponement of the removal of the floating cages until the end of 2021.

President of AKVKC, Sim Chy, told The Post on June 7 that he had submitted a letter requesting the postponement of the removal of floating houses and fish farming cages to Phnom Penh municipal hall on June 4.

“The administration officials told us that there will be a meeting with our association to find the most appropriate solution for us, but no date has been set yet,” he said.

Chy added that in the letter he asked for a review of the period of time allotted for relocations to give the affected communities more time to prepare.

“We also request assistance in finding a suitable place to raise fish to maintain these family’s livelihoods, and especially to give some more time for the fish cage owners to collect their fish,” he said.

Chi also said that according to his statistics there are about 1,000 Vietnamese families living in floating houses and boats on the river.

Chap Nhean, a fish farmer of over 10 years who represents the fish farmers in Prek Pra commune of Chbar Ampov district, said that he had submitted a separate letter to the municipality on Friday asking for a delay in the demolishment of the cages until the end of the year, but he didn’t know what the results would be.

“In that letter, we said we could not oppose the government which has asked us to remove the fish farming cages. But what we asked is for the municipality to give farmers’ time to harvest their fish because the fish species that were just put in the cages are still small,” he said.

On June 4, Vietnamese ambassador to Cambodia Vu Quang Minh and Chy checked out the situation of Vietnamese people living on the river in Phnom Penh in person.

The Vietnamese embassy in Cambodia could not be reached for comment on June 7, but ambassador Minh posted to Facebook on June 4 saying that: “Families who are living in the floating houses consist of some Khmer and Cham – but most are Vietnamese people – totalling about 1,000 families.”

He said that most of the Vietnamese families had lived in these floating houses for more than 40 years. The demolishment of the house or their relocation will seriously affect them given the Covid-19 pandemic.

Asked about the matter, Phnom Penh municipal governor Khuong Sreng said on June 6: “If they have proper documents and submit them to the Phnom Penh municipal administration, we will review them and see what request they make to municipal hall. Then we will provide them with feedback according to our procedures.”

The municipal administration on June 2 issued a directive giving just one week to all those living in floating houses and fish farmers on the rivers in Phnom Penh to remove their homes and fish cages. They said the decision was to protect the environment and water quality, as well as to maintain public order.