Expert Says Disputes Call for Fishing Reforms

A 24-year-old fishing lot guard was fatally shot earlier this month during a dispute with fishermen at the northern end of the Tonle Sap lake, Siem Reap province authorities said Thursday.

The shooting marks at least the fourth fishing-related death in less than two months in what observers say is likely to be an escalation of violence as fertile fishing grounds become more scarce.

While the government and donors have concentrated most of their efforts on reforming Cambodia’s logging industry, little attention has been paid to fishing, which suffers the same management flaws, according to one long-time fisheries expert.

“There is a massive fishing industry,” the expert said Thur­s­day, but one with “no cohesive strategy” for dealing with problems of corruption or mismanagement.

“Clearly it’s being ignored, yet [fishing] is one of the most pressing issues,” the expert said.

“This is reflected by the shootings and fatalities—there is a lot of gun-pointing that we don’t know about. There is no real capacity to resolve things peacefully,” he said.

Chroy Sokun was shot three times and killed during a late afternoon gunfight with six fishermen near the Siem Reap and Battambang provincial border, a military police official who did not want to be named said.

Three of the fishermen who allegedly attacked the fishing lot, which police say was guarded by Chroy Sokun, another guard and a soldier, were also seriously injured in the exchange of gunfire, the official said.

All three are being treated in a Phnom Penh hospital and it remains unclear who started the gun battle, officials said.

“We do not know who is right or who is wrong. The two guards are civilians without the right to use a gun,” the official said.

According to the official, witnesses said the guards allegedly tried to confiscate nets from the fishermen, whom they accused of illegally entering the private fishing lot. No arrest warrants have been issued yet as investigators try to gather evidence, according to Siem Reap provincial court prosecutor So Vat.

“It is more difficult to file for warrants in [these type of cases] because the evidence is always thrown into the water,” So Vat said.

One gun was allegedly taken from the fishermen, according to provincial police, who are now looking for the weapon’s owner.

Disputes over allegedly illegal fishing equipment were also the cause of a brawl that killed three Cambodian fisheries officials in early April. A patrol of six officials said they were cracking down on illegal fishing practices in Kandal province when they were atta­cked by a large group of fishermen. Villagers living near the scene of the fight say the fishermen were merely angry at being repeatedly shaken down by the officials, who took their equipment and demanded large payments for its return.



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