Kampot provincial governor Khoy Khun Hour said yesterday that a police vessel had been deployed off the Cambodian coast to help pacify hundreds of angry ethnic Cham fishermen who claim that two of their boats were rammed by a pair of Vietnamese fishing boats on Saturday night.
The Troeuy Koh commune fishermen, furious about the attack that occurred immediately after the Vietnamese boats were released by local fisheries authorities, said yesterday that they would wait and see how the governor responded to their complaints before taking their protest to authorities in Phnom Penh.
Mr Khun Hour said he hoped it would not come to that.
“We sent one big ship to the disputed area to make our Khmer-Islamic fishermen feel more comfortable and safe while they are fishing,” Mr Khun Hour said, adding that he had sent officials to ask the fishermen to remain calm.
“We don’t want an incident like this to occur again.”
But Nao Thuok, Fisheries Administration director-general, said yesterday that he believed the Cham fishermen were partly to blame for the problem.
“This problem occurred because many parties of Khmer-Islamic people incited each other to create hate or discrimination between Cambodian and Vietnamese people,” Mr Thuok said, adding that it would be up to the provincial governor to solve the problem.
Asked why the Vietnamese boats had been freed on a Saturday night, Mr Thuok said fisheries officials had the right to release boats at any time of the day. He added that the Vietnamese fishing crews had only been handed their boats back on Saturday night after paying a fine for fishing illegally in Cambodian waters.
Representatives of the fishermen, who declined to be named yesterday for fear of being targeted by officials, said they had not yet made a decision about how to proceed with their complaint.
“If officials do solve our problem, we will not go to complain to our prime minister in Phnom Penh. But if the Kampot governor does not solve the complaint, we will go,” one fishermen said yesterday.