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Fishing crackdown intensifies

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Four people are arrested for illegally fishing in Tonle Sap Lake in Siem Reap province in early April. POLICE

Fishing crackdown intensifies

The government has announced plans to step up its crackdown against fisheries crimes in Tonle Sap Lake, with Prime Minister Hun Sen last week setting up another inter-ministerial commission targeted at preventing such crimes.

According to a government letter announcing the setting up of the commission – headed by Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Veng Sakhon – it has been tasked with investigating and arresting fishing offenders and building case files for referral to courts.

The commission will, among other tasks, ensure the implementation of crackdown measures by police around the lake, as well as produce progress reports for senior government officials, according to the letter.

Members of the commission include five deputy heads of ministries and institutions, including Royal Cambodian Armed Forces (RCAF) Commander-in-Chief General Vong Pisen, National Police chief Neth Savoeun and National Military Police Commander Sao Sokha.

Hun Sen declared that the commission has been granted permission to establish additional teams to achieve their goals and the right to use RCAF helicopters to carry out necessary tasks. They will also be authorised to use the official letterhead of the agriculture ministry.

Commission deputy head Sokha said that after the government announced its decision to set up the inter-ministerial commission, military forces in provinces along the Tonle Sap Lake began to carry out operational duties at assigned locations.

He said armed forces personnel have been divided into two parts for the operation. Those stationed in the provinces around the lake will be working with a joint working group led by provincial governors. Meanwhile, those stationed in more remote areas will be focused on intervening in crimes and assisting provincial military forces in doing so.

“The Military Police force is undertaking these two tasks and will start implementing them within five days of an immediate order. Our national forces are operating every day,” he said.

Pech Pisey, executive director of the NGO Transparency International Cambodia, said the significant involvement of institutions and ministries could be a positive development, but suggested that fisheries crimes could be better prevented through lake and animal stock management and that the focus must not be lost.

“The establishment of this commission is a good step. But what we want to encourage is crackdown on fisheries crimes, especially [through] the management of the lake surface and the land around the lake, which is the spawning ground and habitat for wildlife. This management is required under Cambodian law.

“What we want to see is that all these laws and initiatives can be properly established and work effectively,” he said.

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