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Mob forces police to free fishermen

Mob forces police to free fishermen

Police in Kampong Thom province’s Kampong Svay district surrendered two prisoners who were under arrest for alleged illegal fishing after being surrounded and threatened by more than 100 of the couple’s fellow fishermen on Friday, officials said yesterday.

However, police and fisheries officials in Kampong Svay district’s Phat Sanday commune said that fisherman Yor Yangseun, 33, and his wife, Ngo Thyfoeung, 22, were re-arrested yesterday and sent to court, where they were charged with illegally fishing in a protected area.

According to commune police chief Oum Thann, a mix of roughly 20 police, military police and fisheries officials had gone to make the arrest, and had just succeeded in collaring the couple – who are ethnic Vietnamese – when more Vietnamese fishermen began to gather around. The crowd, which ultimately swelled to more than 100 people, some of whom were armed with knives and poles, began yelling at the police in Vietnamese. But since they were not overtly violent, police couldn’t resort to deadly force.

“When we were arresting the two, [other fishermen] came and surrounded us,” said Thann. “Seeing this, we withdrew. We were afraid of danger. If we had shot, it would have been illegal, so we agreed to withdraw.”

“They are not afraid of the law,” he added, noting the prevalence of illegal fishing. “Those fish have been protected since the 1980s, but so far we cannot protect them. This is up to the top officials to resolve.”

Lim Sothat, deputy chief of the commune Fisheries Office, said that fishermen frequently fish near the protected area, and often enter into it when authorities aren’t around.

Provincial court prosecutor Pen Sarath confirmed yesterday that the two suspects had been jailed and charged but declined to comment when asked if had plans to take legal action against any members of the mob that initially liberated them.  

Ministry of Interior spokesman Khieu Sopheak could not be reached for comment as to whether or not officers had responded to the situation appropriately.

To contact the reporter on this story: Meas Sokchea at [email protected]