Interior Minister Sar Kheng issued a warning on Wednesday to the governors of the provinces around the Tonle Sap lake: Stop illegal fishing or face losing your jobs.
“If, in their provinces, there are still many [incidents of] fishing crimes, they will be withdrawn from their positions,” a statement posted to the National Police website said.
The warning accompanied a raid on Wednesday during which Agriculture Minister Veng Sakhon led a committee in Pursat and Kompong Thom provinces in destroying illegal fishing gear cached in the lake’s depths.
In Mr. Kheng’s statement, he said the government would create a working group led by Neth Savoeun, the National Police commissioner, to use speedboats to crack down on illegal fishing on the lake. The statement added that Mr. Kheng will search out fishing crimes once or twice a month by helicopter.
Laws around illegal fishing are complicated, officials have said, but generally prohibit fishing in conservation areas, by electric shock, certain large nets and traps.
Contacted on Thursday, the governors of provinces surrounding the lake were not forthcoming about their plans to preserve Tonle Sap, which is threatened by severe overfishing for both cash and sustenance. The lake, dubbed the “beating heart of Cambodia,” is the main source of protein for millions of people.
Khim Bunsong, provincial governor of Siem Reap, said only that Mr. Kheng had spoken to him about the issue on Wednesday, and he would do as bidden.
“He issued an absolute order of the government, so we will follow it,” Mr. Bunsong said. “We will work hard to crack down more on illegal fishing crimes.”
Mau Thaknin, provincial governor of Pursat, declined to comment, saying angrily, “You are not in a place to question me.”
“We work hard to do our jobs, but you always want to interrupt,” he said. “You wait and see what measures I’m going to take.”
Chan Sophal, provincial governor of Battambang, declined comment, saying, “I’m busy and in a meeting.”
Uth Sam On, provincial governor of Kompong Thom, could not be reached for comment.