Fish Smugglers Escape After Ramming Pursuing Police Car

Police are seeking the arrest of a snakehead-fish smuggler who fled from Pursat City on Thursday morning after ramming his van into a car driven by officers from the Interior Ministry’s anti-economic crime police department and causing it to crash, an official said.

Touch Yuothea, director of the department, said two of his officers had been chasing the Ssangyong van on National Road 5 in the city’s Roleab commune after receiving a tip that the vehicle was illegally transporting fish. When they overtook the vehicle in an attempt to force it to pull over, its driver responded violently.

“The van turned its lights off and hit our authority’s car and then [the police car] overturned a few times after running off the road,” he said.

Mr. Yuothea said that after ramming the police car, the smugglers abandoned their van and fled in a Lexus that had been tailing them during the chase.

“My officials told me that three vehicles were providing security for the van because they wanted to keep the authority’s car away from the van,” he said. “We did not know how many people were in the van because it was dark.”

Mr. Yuothea said his officers suffered minor injuries and would be sent to Phnom Penh today for treatment. He said local police confiscated 200,000 live, recently hatched snakehead fish from the backseat of the van and estimated that there were also about 800,000 dead fish in the vehicle.

The Agriculture Ministry banned the farming of snakehead fish in 2005 because farmers were depleting freshwater fish stocks in order to feed the snakehead, which have a ravenous appetite and grow quickly.

Mr. Yuothea said the snakehead fry seized Thursday were likely purchased on the Vietnamese border and that the smugglers were planning to sell them in areas along the Tonle Sap river.

He said his department had identified the van’s driver and was building a case against him, but declined to give his name.

“We accuse the van’s driver of destroying public property and attempting to hit and kill our officials,” he said.

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