Authorities Release Activists Questioned in Fishing Death

Four of five suspects de­tained for questioning in the killing of a Koh Kong province fisherman were released by police following a protest Sunday by more than 300 members of a Sre Ambel district fishing community.

Fisherman Khieng Khoeun was shot Thursday, allegedly by commune police officer Lay Nak, during an investigation by community fishing activists into illegal fishing, Yang Yin, Sre Ambel de­pu­ty district police chief, said Tuesday.

Activists and police claim that Khieng Khoeun, who was fishing in the area illegally, rammed their boat and was accidentally hit by the officer’s warning shot.

Yang Yin said the four suspects released Sunday were fishing act­ivists. Lay Nak remains in custody, he added.

Community leader Choup Kong said more protests are  planned to press for the release of the police officer.

Choup Kong said that if Lay Nak is not re­leased, police will no longer co­operate with lo­cal act­i­vists, and bus­inessmen will exploit his com­munity’s fish­ing grounds.

“The fishing community protested because they were worried that their activists would be unfairly im­pri­soned,” Sre Ambel Governor Som Sothy said Tuesday.

Huong Thoung, director of Koh Kong province’s agriculture de­part­­ment, defended the actions of the freed fishery activists, but ack­nowledged that po­­lice must investigate the action of Lay Nak.

“The fisherman’s offense was not punishable by death,” he said. Khieng Khoeun’s family is preparing a court complaint, he said.

Doung Vuthy, program manager of the American Friends Service Committee, which has been working to curb illegal fishing in Koh Kong, said they will hire a lawyer for the detained po­liceman, because the dead fisherman’s weal­thy boss is planning to hire one for the deceased’s family.

The community supported the act­ivists and the officer be­cause Khieng Khoeun, who worked for a boat owner, had tried to sink their boat, en­dangering the 17 peo­ple on board, Doung Vuthy said.

Choup Kong said the ow­ner of the illegal fishing boat is supported by high ranking officials. He ap­pealed to Prime Minster Hun Sen to help his community.


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