Immigration police arrested 52 Vietnamese fishermen for illegally fishing off the coast of Kampot on Jan 13, Kampot provincial police officials said Thursday.
The men were caught just before noon fishing in three boats 2 km from the mainland. Cambodian Navy officials worked with the Fisheries Department, raiding the boats and finding illegal fishing equipment and 10 tons of oysters, said Im Choun, chief of Kampot province’s department of immigration police.
“Among the 52 Vietnamese, only one man speaks the Cambodian language,” he said. They are from Kien Giang province and crossed into Cambodian seas with fake Cambodian identification pasted on the boat, he said. They also carried some false documentation. The boats hold 20 tons of fish and equipment, said Song Lon, chief of the Fishery Department in Kampot.
Now officials are waiting for word from the Immigration Police Department or the Ministry of Interior as to whether or not the men will be sent home or will be jailed as illegal immigrants, Im Choun said.
The fisherman are staying at police headquarters in Kampot, he said, adding that they hoped to have a decision by today.
Kampot Deputy Governors Chhim Choun and Meng Suon, said they had heard about the arrests, but would not comment further.
Song Lon said he asked the governor of Kep municipality to crack down on fisherman coming across the border.
“Border police in Kep allow Vietnamese fisherman to sneak through if they pay money,” Song Lon said. He said he thinks illegal Vietnamese fisherman have protection from some high-ranking officials.
The Vietnamese caught this week were the largest group of fisherman arrested, and the first this year, Im Choun said.