About 50 fishermen protested in front of Kampot’s provincial hall on Tuesday seeking protection from Vietnamese fishermen, who they say threatened them in Cambodian waters several months ago.
Provincial authorities responded on Wednesday, first saying Cambodian authorities had no jurisdiction over the matter, then telling the fishermen to arrest the Vietnamese themselves.
“There are no boundaries in the water.
We cannot go arrest them,” said deputy provincial governor Sim Vuthea.
If there was a problem, the Cambodian fishermen were free to arrest their attackers and bring them to the authorities, he said.
Mr. Vuthea added that Cambodian fishermen were often angry due to meager catches.
Relations between Cambodian and Vietnamese fishermen have been fraught, and a Cambodian fisherman was killed in 2015 when a Vietnamese trawler allegedly sank his boat.
Neak Sen, a representative of the Cambodian fishermen, said Vietnamese fishermen had crashed their boats into his community’s vessels.
“Sometimes our villagers have stopped them,” he said, but added he was skeptical that he could arrest them.
“Are you sure they will take action if I take them to the authorities?”