The village of An Chan-Eur, in Koh Kong province, was besieged on Tuesday by about 100 armed assailants, who pillaged homes and wounded three villagers with their knives and machetes before fleeing with eight illegal fishing boats seized by the local fishing community days earlier, officials and villagers said Wednesday.
The assailants armed with axes, sticks, knives and machetes disembarked from 18 boats, razed four houses and looted several others, said village chief Num Ty. They also slashed the limbs of two men and one women, though none of the injuries were life-threatening, he said.
The attackers were also armed with rifles, but did not use them, because residents of the village in Sre Ambel district’s Chhu Khor Kroam commune did not resist, he said.
He and other villagers and officials suspected the assailants were from a commercial fishing company in Sihanoukville’s Stung Hav district, whose identity they declined to reveal pending an investigation.
“They robbed as revenge against [a local group charged with protecting the village waters],” Num Ty said. The group seized eight boats from the company on Feb 18 that were fishing illegally, Num Ty said.
Commune police were afraid to help the people, he said.
Yang Yin, deputy police chief of Sre Ambel district, said the commune police were far outnumbered by the assailants.
Kham Sum, chief of Chhu Khor Kroam commune, added that he told residents not to fight back to avoid harm.
Two suspected attackers have been arrested and confessed to police they were from Stung Hav district, Yang Yin said.
Doung Vuthy, program manager of the NGO American Friends Service Committee, said commercial fishing boats—which are required to fish in waters deeper than 20 meters—have increasingly come closer to shore, disturbing the village’s fishing areas and killing the natural habitat.
“It is a serious and dangerous issue,” he said from Sre Ambel. “The government must pay attention to such destruction of fishing.”