Officer Arrested Over Car Full of Illegal Fish

Takeo province fisheries department officials arrested a military police officer and impounded a car containing 500 kg of pacu, a type of fish that is banned in Cam­bodia, Takeo fisheries department director Kim Sarith said Tuesday.

Military police officer Oun Soph­­al, 27, was arrested at the scene in Samraong district Friday, while three other military police officers in the car managed to es­cape, Kim Sarith said, adding that the confiscated fish, which were found dead, have been destroyed.

Although pacu, large omnivorous relatives of the piranha, were banned in Cambodia in 2004, small-scale importation of the fish continues, said Nao Thuok, director-general of the Fisheries Administration.

“The fish are mostly imported from Vietnam and the government has banned the importation of this fish since 2004 because this fish eats all kinds of fish in the river,” Nao Thuok said.

Pacu are not native to Southeast Asia, but rather come from the Amazon River in South America, he said.

Sam Nov, deputy director of the Fisheries Administration, said Cam­bodian vendors continue to illegally import pacu from Thailand and Vietnam, where it is still legal and cheap, because they are unaware of the negative effects it has on other native fish species.

Kim Sarith said Oun Sophal, who was sent to the Takeo Provincial Court on Sunday, told police that a superior officer in the military police said he would receive 20,000 riel for delivering the fish.

“This is the biggest crackdown [on pacu],” Kim Sarith said.

“Before, there were only small scale deliveries made by common vendors,” he added.

   (Additional reporting by Lea Radick)

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