Forty-six of the 52 Vietnamese fishermen caught fishing illegally in Cambodian waters last week were released without charge, Kampot provincial officials said.
The fishermen were arrested Tuesday after Navy and Fisheries Department officials raided three boats 2 km off the Kampot coast. Authorities said Sunday they confiscated illegal fishing equipment and 10 tons of oysters.
The fishermen were sent back to neighboring Kien Giang province under a cooperation agreement with Vietnamese authorities there, said Im Choun, chief of Kampot’s immigration police. Officials said six others remain in Kampot province.
The 46 men crossed back into Vietnam at Preak Chak checkpoint on Friday, Im Choun said. Vietnamese authorities don’t plan to punish the fisherman, he said.
“We have educated them to stop sneaking illegally into Cambodia’s maritime territory,” Im Choun said.
Police have seized the boats and are awaiting payment of a $10,000 fine from the remaining six men believed to be the boats’ captains. If the fine is not paid, the boats will be confiscated as state property and the six will be turned over to immigration police, said Song Lon, chief of the fisheries department in Kampot. The order to release the men came from National Police Director General Hok Lundy, Im Choun said.
Following the arrests, Song Lon had called on authorities in Kep municipality to monitor more closely monitor encroachment on Cambodian waters, saying he believed that many Vietnamese fishermen had political protection from a high-ranking official.
Officials said the boats had false Cambodian identification tags and phony documentation on board.