Fishermen in Kampot province, frustrated by authorities’ alleged inaction over their repeated claims of encroachment by Vietnamese trawlers, vowed yesterday to travel to the capital and present their case to Prime Minister Hun Sen.
Keo Math, a 62-year-old fisherman from Kampot town, said that around 300 fishermen planned to make the trip to Phnom Penh within two weeks if their complaints remain unanswered.
“Now we have no choice except coming…to ask Samdech Hun Sen for help. I don’t see any crackdown on illegal trawlers,” he said.
Last week about 600 Kampot fishermen sent a petition to the premier, urging him to stop Vietnamese trawlers from illegally fishing in Cambodian waters. The prime minister’s Cabinet referred the petition to the Agriculture Ministry for review.
The petition claims the fishermen have lodged several complaints with provincial authorities since 2006, all to no avail.
Local fisherman Hath Karim, 37, said locals would not be able to catch enough to make a living if the government could not push the encroaching trawlers away from the shallow waters around Kampot.
He warned that more fishermen would be forced to migrate to other provinces for work if the situation continued.
Kampot provincial governor Khoy Khun Hour acknowledged yesterday that some Vietnamese fishing boats had been spotted plying Cambodia’s territorial waters but said none had ever been intercepted. However, Cambodian boats are also crossing the sea border to fish in Vietnam, he said.
“They are coming to our waters and we are also fishing in their waters. So what can we do?” Mr Khun Hour said.
“We cannot crack down on [illegal trawlers] with one hundred percent success,” he said, adding that authorities cannot conduct regular patrols because they do not have enough gasoline.
The fishermen say they would object less if the Vietnamese boats used the same, small-scale fishing gear as their Cambodian counterparts. While local fishermen use five- to nine-meter nets, Vietnamese trawlers can employ nets as long as 200 meters, said Mr Math, the Kampot fisherman.