Prime Minister Hun Sen has ordered the military to use helicopter patrols to prevent fisheries-related crimes around the Tonle Sap Lake and to help apprehend any large-scale fisheries offenders and prosecute them to ensure the sustainability of the lake’s fish population.
The orders came on the evening of March 23 at the closing of the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries annual meeting to review last year’s work and plan for 2022.
Speaking at the event, the premier said the Fisheries Administration had only managed to stop fishing offences involving individual fishermen using small boats and that they had not been able to stop the groups committing large-scale offences.
Hun Sen further pointed out that this was also the problem with their attempts to stop illegal logging in the past. They would arrest individuals cutting down trees to use personally as firewood while failing to apprehend the large-scale traders and organised loggers cutting down big trees.
“Can’t we crack down on these corrupt traders? Or maybe we can’t because our officials take bribes?” he said.
He added that sometimes corrupt officials would leak plans for law enforcement operations to the perpetrators so they would be prepared to flee from authorities using boats they claimed were too fast for authorities to catch up with.
He ordered the elimination of the corrupt traders who were committing fisheries crimes and destroying the fish population in the Tonle Sap Lake to protect the long-term sustainability of the Tonle Sap fisheries resources for use by the people.
“Just how fast are the motorboats of those rogue traders? We’ll find out. I ordered the use of helicopters and have deployed the navy to catch them and put them in jail. We do not need to go easy on these perpetrators.
“What’s important is whether you succeed or not. If you cannot stop these fishing criminals then you don’t need to be a provincial governor – nor even a government official, police chief or military police commander,” he said.
Hun Sen, who recently rallied government forces to crack down on encroachment of the lake’s wetlands, instructed all relevant ministries and institutions around Tonle Sap Lake to reforest over 60,000 ha that has been confiscated from offenders thus far.
He further said that the encroachment must not happen again because those areas are reserved as fish-spawning habitat and that he expected that within the next three years the restored areas would be good spawning grounds for the fish once again.