Allegations of corruption leveled last month against a Siem Reap province fisheries official are near to being resolved through local mediation, officials said Sunday.
A group of 177 villagers in Siem Reap district’s Chong Phniet commune complained in early January that Ean Sophoeut, head of the commune fisheries office, had been demanding bribes for permission to grant fishing rights and had allowed the use of illegal fishing methods, locals and rights workers said.
Ean Sophoeut has denied the accusations but talks were held
Saturday in the commune between the 177 villagers and nine fishermen who allegedly benefited from their links to the accused fisheries official, commune chief Em Man said Sunday.
“The 177 fishermen are not happy with another nine fishermen who have fished with oversize nets,” he said.
Em Man said he proposed Saturday that the nine fishermen cease using oversize nets and he agreed to ask Ean Sophoeut not to charge for the right to fish.
“The community fishermen and the nine fishermen agreed to compromise and the nine agreed to stop using illegal nets,” Em Man said.
Sours Narin, an investigator in Siem Reap for rights group Adhoc, said Sunday he had interviewed villagers and confirmed complaints of extortion by fisheries officials.
“Each boat has to pay [$7.50] to [$12.50] for one night’s fishing,” Sours Narin said. “If they don’t pay him, they will be fined [$30] to [$125].” Traditionally, subsistence fishermen are allowed to fish for free, he added.
Ean Sophoeut denied all the allegations Sunday. “I don’t extort money from them. They are free to fish but they have used prohibited motors to drag their nets,” he said.