A group of eight fishermen—seven Vietnamese and one Cambodian—was questioned at the Pursat Provincial Court on Thursday over their use of illegal fishing methods on a tributary of the Tonle Sap lake, officials said.
If charged and convicted, they face up to three years in prison.
The eight were arrested by Fisheries Administration officers on Wednesday afternoon after a local resident reported that they had been trawling along a stretch of river inside the Kompong Prak conservation area, according to Sin Sao Rith, chief of the administration’s Krakor division.
“We arrested the eight people at about 1 p.m…and confiscated two boats and a large net that they used for catching fish in the conservation area,” he said, adding that the net they had strung between two boats was more than 120 meters long.
Mr. Sao Rith identified the Cambodian as 16-year-old Choeun Thy and the Vietnamese nationals as Nguieng Yang Laing, 43; Daing Yang Yen, 27; Mieng Yang Toeung, 49; Mieng Yang Voeung, 17; Chaing Yang Eang, 33; Nguieng Yang Haing, 15; and Ngor Yang Dor, 22.
He said he had lodged a report with the Pursat court accusing the eight of breaching Article 99 of the Fisheries Law, which covers a range of offenses, all punishable by between one and three years in prison.
Long Cheap, a deputy prosecutor at the court, said the eight were questioned at his office on Thursday and would be questioned again today.
“We will not be able to charge those people today but we will continue questioning them tomorrow and make a decision on what they will be charged with,” he said, adding that the fishermen would be held at the provincial provision overnight.
Commercial fishing is completely banned inside conservation areas, including Kompong Prak, which was established to protect the livelihoods of local subsistence fishermen as fish stocks plummet, according to Mr. Sao Rith.
He said 28 people—26 of them Vietnamese—were arrested and charged for fishing illegally in the area in 2015, with many of them going on to serve jail time.
“Khmer people are also fishing in the public fishing lot, but they fish legally by using equipment that is not banned by law,” he said.