Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Idea to move floating villages floated at meet




Idea to move floating villages floated at meet

A Cambodian fisherwoman works on her boat near her house in Kompong Phluk, one of the floating villages at Tonle Sap lake near Siem Reap. Chandan Khanna/AFP
A Cambodian fisherwoman works on her boat near her house in Kompong Phluk, one of the floating villages at Tonle Sap lake near Siem Reap. Chandan Khanna/AFP

Idea to move floating villages floated at meet

A recent meeting of an inter-ministerial committee on combating illegal fishing in the Tonle Sap Lake included a sweeping, if vague, proposal to move residents of the lake’s floating villages to the mainland.

The March 7 meeting – which brought together representatives from the Ministry of Environment and the Ministry of Justice, and vice governors from Pursat, Battambang, Siem Reap, Kampong Thom, Kampong Chhnang and Kandal provinces – included a report by Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry, and Fishing Undersecretary of State Sao Vannsereyveuth, who sees moving villagers out of the floating villages and onto the mainland as one solution to overfishing.

“If the Tonle Sap is the biggest lake in Southeast Asia, it has major cultural and socioeconomic importance,” Vannsereyveuth said yesterday. “Sixty percent of the freshwater fish Cambodian people eat comes from the Tonle Sap; this is cultural.”

Now, he continued, “more and more people come to the Tonle Sap for their livelihood and mostly, they fish”, leading to overfishing.

“Day by day there is degradation,” Vannsereyveuth said, adding that with more people on the lake comes pollution, including “oil from machines”, which leaks into the water.

But Vannsereyveuth insisted he “just propose[d] the idea to the committee for the long term”, noting that his ministry would need other government bodies’ support.

According to Nao Thuok, director of the Ministry of Agriculture’s Fisheries Department, the government should “create jobs to move people out of the lake”. These jobs, he said, can include “planting and processing cassava and sugarcane; those jobs should earn more money than fishing . . . so that people will not fish,” he said.

Thuok said several ministries could cooperate to this end, “like the Ministry of Land [Management], to build social land concessions and the Ministry of Industry to build processing plants . . . [for] crops”.

Still, there is no guarantee this strategy will alter entrenched norms in floating villages, where many residents’ marginalisation based on their ethnicity had effectively forced them onto the water in the first place.

“Most of the families who live in the floating houses are Vietnamese minorities, Cham minorities and some Cambodians,” said Chhou Chandoeun, Kampong Chhnang’s provincial governor.

“They are fishing families, so when they move onto the land, they want to live close to the river and the lake so that it is easy to [go] fishing or raise fish.”

MOST VIEWED

  • ‘Potential shield’ for virus hangs in balance

    The World Health Organisation (WHO) suspended trials of the drug that US president Donald Trump has promoted as a coronavirus defence, fuelling concerns about his handling of the pandemic that has killed nearly 100,000 US citizens. Trump has led the push for hydroxychloroquine as a potential

  • Gov’t rolls out stimulus to keep businesses afloat

    The government has introduced the fourth round of stimulus measures aimed at ensuring economic and social stability during the outbreak of the Covid-19 disease. The move, which was announced on Tuesday, is designed to help businesses, factories and enterprises to stay afloat while reducing the

  • E-cigarette back in spotlight amid virus pandemic

    The Ministry of Health’s Department of Communicable Disease (DCD) department has released a video about the effects of smoking, while the NGO Cambodia Movement for Health (CMH) warned against the use of electronic cigarettes or vape. The short video clip that was posted on

  • Por Sen Chey woman murdered

    Por Sen Chey district police are searching for a suspect who robbed and killed a woman in a rented room in Samraong Kraom commune in Phnom Penh at 6:30pm on Monday. Deputy district police chief Chea Sovann told The Post on Tuesday that the victim,

  • Police chief: remove all roadblocks

    National Police chief Neth Savoeun warned Phnom Penh and provincial police chiefs to remove all roadblocks, saying that traffic police officials in some provinces had tightened traffic law implementation against guidelines. In a leaked voice message which was shared on social media on Tuesday, Savoeun

  • Capital calls for Covid-19 caution

    The Phnom Penh Municipal Hall announced on Monday that authorities in the city’s 14 districts must encourage people to continue various safety measures to prevent a second wave of Covid-19. It called on administrations, departments and units to educate residents on daily living habits like