Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Veng Sakhon has led a meeting with police commissioners and commanders of the armed forces to establish mechanisms to crack down on fisheries crimes in the Tonle Sap Lake following an order from Prime Minister Hun Sen.
According to Mit Soksopheak, the ministry’s Southern Fisheries Inspector, the meeting was held between Sakhon, National Police chief Neth Savoeun and Military Police Commander Sao Sokha on March 23.
“In the meeting, we decided that experts, especially from the Fisheries Administration delegate, should draw up a map of crime hotspots in Tonle Sap Lake for us to investigate,” Soksopheak told The Post.
He said the agriculture ministry will make a public announcement and establish an “urgent notification network” or a Telegram chat group with which it will be able to receive information from the public on fishing crimes occurring in their localities.
Pursat provincial governor Cheav Tay told The Post that regional authorities have already carried out crackdowns on the offences.
“Our province has implemented the orders before the prime minister had issued them, and we have also cracked down on several crimes related to the use of fish electrocution devices,” he said.
Tay added that he had recently allowed police forces to detain individuals for such offences, resulting in the detention of two first-time offenders and eight second-time offenders.
“We are building case files for referral to courts ... We are not permitting the offences to occur in the Tonle Sap Lake anymore,” he said.
Kampong Chhnang provincial deputy governor San Yo said he had led a meeting to kick off the implementation of the order.
Prime Minister Hun Sen on March 23 ordered authorities in the provinces surrounding the lake to enforce his order and target individuals who illegally fish in the area.
He noted that there have been people who suggested that the government privatise fishing lots, as was the case in the past. But he rejected the idea, citing the fact that he personally ordered the shutdown of such privatisation in 2012 due to conflicts between local fishermen.
Hun Sen subsequently ordered the state-run National Television Kampuchea (TVK) to rebroadcast a five-hour-long speech where he addressed the shutdown of private fishing lots.
He has also recently permitted the use of military force, including navy resources and helicopters, to arrest perpetrators of fisheries crimes.
Sok Touch – president of the Royal Academy of Cambodia who first investigated fisheries crimes occurring around the lake in 2021 and reported his findings to Hun Sen – told The Post that the premier’s latest order will prevent Cambodia from losing the lake forever.
“This is the correct decision. For me, I don’t have a word to say, other than that I am excited to see this order because Tonle Sap is a huge treasure. It is really good that Prime Minister Hun Sen cares about this,” he said.