About 50 disgruntled fishermen in Kandal province’s Leuk Dek district torched a fishing lot-owner’s office and destroyed his fishing equipment Monday, two days after Prime Minister Hun Sen urged fishermen to stand up for themselves against lot abuses.
In a speech Saturday, Hun Send said officials from the minister of agriculture on down needed to be corrected.
“If I were the people, I’d lead a demonstration” against lot owners and officials, the premier said.
Tea Leang Huot, director of the provincial Agriculture Department, said Wednesday the Leuk Dek fishermen also burned two motorcycles owned by the owner of Lot 6, whom he did not identify.
“They got together and threw rocks at the lot owner” at about
9 pm Monday, he said. No one was hurt.
The fishermen were apparently upset at being told they could not fish in Lot 6, agriculture officials said.
Om Yentieng, an adviser to the prime minister, said he had heard nothing about the incident but would check into it and comment later.
Last month, the prime minister ordered fisheries officials to take large portions of five fishing lots in Siem Reap province away from their private owners, opening them to small fishermen instead.
Hun Sen said then that fisheries officials were corrupt and had illegally taken money from the private owners. “Fishing officials have become the leeches that suck the peoples’ blood,” he said.
When Ly Kim Han, then the director of the Agriculture Ministry’s fisheries department, said the law wouldn’t allow him to open up as many of the fishing areas as the prime minister wanted, Hun Sen fired him.
Fishing families have regularly come to Phnom Penh to protest abuses by lot owners, who they say won’t let them fish in the areas supposedly set aside for them.
The law says a portion of each lot must be set aside for subsistence fishermen, but the fishermen say too often they are prevented from doing so.
Last Friday, Hun Sen urged fishing families to demand better access to privately owned fishing lots.
On Tuesday, about 300 protesters from Lvea Em district demonstrated outside the Ministry of Agriculture.
Agriculture officials declined to make comment on whether they thought Monday’s incident was in response to the prime minister’s speech, saying only that they are reforming the system in accordance with his orders.