Fisheries Chief Sacked

Dispute on Fishing Lots With Hun Sen Entangles Official

Ly Kim Han, director of the Fisheries Department, was fired Wednesday afternoon after Prime Minister Hun Sen accused him of acting against the his directions.

On Tuesday, Hun Sen had ordered fishery officials to take thousands of hectares in five fishing lots in Siem Reap province away from private bidders and open them for public use.

Ly Kim Han responded Tues­day by saying though he agreed with Hun Sen on regulations for most fishing lots, he could not open up as many disputed fishing areas as Hun Sen wanted.

He said the law technically didn’t allow him to follow Hun Sen’s order and replied that if higher ranking officials think he is wrong, they could remove him.

And that is just what happened Wednesday.

“I can remove him if he told the [Cambodia] Daily those things,” Hun Sen said while distributing flood aid in Kandal province. “He said he is a technical person and dares to oppose the government, the prime minister.”

Khieu Thavika, a government spokesman, confirmed Thursday that Ly Kim Han was removed. His replacement is Nao Thuok, who was deputy director of the Fisheries Department in the Ministry of Agriculture.

Ly Kim Han said, “Now it’s over. Let it be.”

“I am not disappointed,” he said. “It is up to the government [to give me a job or not].”

Hun Sen said Agriculture Minister Chea Song told him he would follow his order and turn over the five fishing lots for public use within the next two months. Hun Sen has said he wants the private lots minimized as much as possible by April.

Hun Sen gave the order to take back the fishing lots after he received complaints that fishery officials were not marking lot borders properly and that people were being prevented from fishing in areas where they should be allowed to fish.

“The people have suffered too much because of fishery officials,” Hun Sen said Wednesday. “I have to deal with it and if you do not follow me, that means you have to walk away. I can sacrifice a minister, secretary of state, undersecretary of state.”

Since 1989, the government has been auctioning the right to fish sections of Cambodia’s rivers and lakes for one year. The best fishing lots sell for $300,000 or more.

A portion of each fishing lot is reserved for subsistence fishing by locals. But increasingly in recent years, lot owners have been keeping locals from fishing in their lots—sometimes with the use of armed guards who confiscate nets and boats.

Villagers are regularly in Phnom Penh to protest in front of the National Assembly, claiming lot owners are not allowing them to fish.

Lot owners often subdivide their lot and rent the areas to several fishermen. Those people, in turn, claim they cannot afford to have locals fishing in their area, taking part of their catch.

Touch Seang Tana, a fisheries specialist, said the law on fishing lots should be amended to comply with social economics.

“The technical demarcation of fishing lots is not clear,” he said. “The population has increased and the terrain has changed because of the population, resulting in the loss of fish sanctuaries.”

 

 

 

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