Pursat Police Official Charged Over Illegal Fishing

The Pursat Provincial Court on Friday charged Krakor district’s judicial police bureau chief for taking bribes in order to allow illegal fishing in the Tonle Sap Lake, officials said Sunday.

Provincial chief prosecutor Tan Seihak Dechak said that the court ordered the arrest of Hong Bunthoeun, 53, after a group of 30 men arrested in January for fishing illegally implicated him in their activities.

“We questioned the suspects and found that Mr. Bunthoeun is also involved with illegal fishing and corruption,” he said.

“If we investigate and find that he is involved in illegal fishing, he will get more then five years in jail,” Mr. Seihak Dechak said, adding that the corruption charge could also carry up to five years of jail time.

Mr. Bunthoeun stands accused of accepting bribes to allow illicit fishing in parts of the Tonle Sap Lake, in which commercial fishing is banned, said Krakor district deputy police chief Meal Soth.

The government withdrew all licenses for large-scale fishing lots in the Tonle Sap in February last year after concerns that the lake was being overfished arose.

Mr. Soth said Mr. Bunthoeun had been in the role of police chief in Kompong Luong commune until March 19, when he was promoted to the district police office.

Two years ago, while in his previous role, residents raised concerns about Mr. Bunthoeun’s role in illegal fishing activities, Mr. Soth said.

“In 2011, the residents of Kompong Luong commune requested to change their new commune police chief because he was illegally fishing and the residents didn’t like him,” he said, adding that the issue was resolved after negotiations were held with villagers.

Police arrested Mr. Bunthoeun at the Krakor Military Police headquarters, where he was attending a meeting at about 2:30 p.m. on Friday.

“He worked only 11 days [at the district police] then we got a court summons to arrest him,” Mr. Soth said.

Kompong Luong commune chief Keo Sovannareth said he was not sure why Mr. Bunthoeun had been charged, but denied that the former police chief had been involved in illegal fishing. “Our brothers and sisters were angry with him because he went with court officers to crack down on illegal fishing,” Mr. Sovannareth claimed.

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