Illegal Vietnamese Fishermen Caught in Nighttime Operation

A group of 13 Vietnamese nationals were apprehended by Cambodian fishermen on Sunday night while illegally fishing off the coast of Kampot province and are being held for repatriation, according to a village representative and the provincial governor.

Neak Sen, a representative of a fishing community in Kampot City’s Troeuy Koh commune, said that a team of about 70 small Cambodian fishing boats, ranging in length from eight to 10.5 meters, at about 11:30 p.m. surrounded two 22-meter long boats from Vietnam making a nightly fishing raid into Cambodia.

Mr. Sen explained that the two boats were about 300 meters apart in the ocean and had cast a fishing net between them, rendering them momentarily idle. He said his team of 70 boats then split into two groups, surrounded and boarded the boats, and called in authorities.

“To arrest the Vietnamese boats, our fishing community gathered together with our boats and drove out to the points that the Vietnamese boats fish in our sea,” Mr. Sen explained. “When we reached them, we jumped into their boats to arrest them.”

An hour later, the Cambodian fishermen apprehended a third Vietnamese fishing boat and detained the fishermen aboard in a similar fashion.

Mr. Sen said that the boats arrive daily to fish in Kampot’s waters at around 8 p.m., before departing at about 5 a.m. He estimated that the boats—fitted with 300cc engines—hauled in about $1,000 of fish per night, compared to about $100 per night made by an average Cambodian boat.

“If we did not catch them, we would lose money in our fishing businesses,” Mr. Sen said of Sunday night’s vigilante operation.

Kampot provincial governor Khoy Khun Huor said Tuesday that the 13 Vietnamese fisherman were being detained by Navy police as they await their collection by Vietnamese authorities.

“We will send them to the Vietnamese authorities to educate them because when they arrest us, they send our people back too,” he said.

Mr. Khun Huor added that the 13 Vietnamese fishermen complained that fishing tools on their boats had been taken during Sunday’s events.

Kampot provincial Navy chief Toch Voleak confirmed the Vietnamese nationals were still being detained in his office awaiting their collection. Vietnamese Embassy officials could not be reached.

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