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

  • Kingdom's Covid cluster cases jump to 194

    The Ministry of Health on February 25 confirmed 65 new cases of Covid-19, with 58 linked to the February 20 community transmission. The latest cluster cases include nine Vietnamese nationals, five Cambodians, one each from Korea, Singapore and Japan, with the rest being Chinese. This brings the total number

  • Locations shut, dozens more Covid-19 positive

    The Ministry of Health has closed 23 locations in connection with the February 20 community transmission of Covid-19 and summoned for testing anyone who had direct contact with affected people and places. The number of discovered related infections has risen to 76, including 39 women. In a press release,

  • Cambodia's Covid cluster cases rise to 137

    The Ministry of Health on February 24 recorded 40 more cases of Covid-19, with 38 linked to the February 20 community transmission. Of the 40, two are imported cases involving Chinese passengers. The 38 include two Vietnamese nationals and one Cambodian, with the rest being Chinese. This brings the total cases

  • Covid cluster raises alarm, health bodies urge vigilance

    The Ministry of Health and the World Health Organisation (WHO) in Cambodia have expressed great concern over the February 20 cluster transmission of Covid-19 in the community. Both entities appealed for vigilance and cooperation in curbing further spread of the virus. Ministry spokeswoman Or Vandine said

  • PM confirms third Covid-19 community transmission

    Prime Minister Hun Sen on February 20 announced the Kingdom's third outbreak of Covid-19 community transmission after 32 people tested positive in just over 10 hours. Addressing the public from his residence after an emergency meeting, Hun Sen said: "I dub it February 20 Community Event, in which 32 cases

  • Cambodia to make auto-rickshaws

    Locally-assembled electric auto-rickshaws could hit the Cambodian market as soon as early in May after the Council for the Development of Cambodia (CDC) gave the greenlight to an investment project at the weekend. According to a CDC press release, it will issue a final registration