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Floating fish farms still adrift in limbo

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Floating homes and fish cages owned by Vietnamese settlers are seen in Kandal province’s Loeuk Dek district in June. FACEBOOK

Floating fish farms still adrift in limbo

Vietnamese settlers living on floating houses and working fish farming cages on the Mekong River in Phnom Penh have relocated to the lower area of the Mekong River near the border with Vietnam.

The fish farmers have dismantled their farming cages and temporarily settled in the Ka’am Samnor area in Kandal province’s Loeuk Dek district and Prey Veng province’s Peam Chor district. They are waiting to return to Vietnam, according to local authorities.

Loeuk Dek district governor Chap Chanvithya told The Post on September 1 that there were only about 60 fish farming cages remaining.

“They have not been removed as it’s not time to collect or sell the fish,” he said.

Chanvithya said the fish farmers raised catfish and trout that could be harvested in October and November.

Peam Chor district governor Seng Thea said 24 fish farming cages and 66 small boats with about 200 people had moved out of Phnom Penh and relocated to the Koh Roka international border checkpoint, then moved to Kandal province’s Loeuk Dek district.

“Due to concerns about the spread of Covid-19 and for the safety of local people, authorities did not let them moor their boats or come on land,” he said.

According to authorities in Loeuk Dek and Peam Chor districts, on June 23 more than 1,000 settlers had moved from Phnom Penh towards Vietnam, but Vietnamese authorities prevented them from entering the country due to the pandemic.

Loeuk Dek district governor Ham Tho told The Post that 100 floating houses and fish farm cages along with the 1,000 people had docked temporarily on the river bordering the K’am Samnar checkpoint after the Vietnamese authorities refused entry and blocked passage with ferries and patrol boats.

“Through the coordination of local immigration police, they were given temporary accommodation to wait for a decision from Vietnamese authorities to open the waterway for them to return to Vietnam,” he said.

However, Vietnamese border authorities have so far not opened the land and water border crossings as the Delta variant has spread in the country.

“About 60 per cent of the Vietnamese settlers have dismantled their farming cages and Cambodian local authorities have allowed them to temporarily relocate to the mainland,” he said.

Sim Chy, president of the Khmer-Vietnam Association in Cambodia, told The Post on September 1 that those Vietnamese settlers were facing livelihood problems as they cannot continue their fish farming business.

“Some of them decided to return to Phnom Penh and find temporary work in construction because at this time they could not return to Vietnam, as Vietnamese authorities closed the border. Some were born in Cambodia without clear documents to prove that they are Vietnamese,” he said.

Chy claimed that some of them have come to stay on the mainland in the Ka’am Samnor area, and authorities from Cambodia and Vietnam are waiting for their documents to be checked to see how many families can return to Vietnam.

“During this time, they must abide by the law and follow the instructions of Cambodian authorities, otherwise they are on their own,” he said.

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