Five fishermen—neighbors of three people, including a pregnant woman, who were shot dead on Monday by Fisheries Administration officials—have been charged and detained for illegal fishing, court officials said Friday.
A complaint by Fisheries officials prompted the arrest of the three ethnic Vietnamese and two Khmer fishermen who were caught fishing in an off-limits area Thursday morning, Pursat provincial police chief Hem Vuthea said by telephone.
“They illegally fished in the reserve area belonging to the state where Fisheries officials are doing conservation work,” he said.
Hem Vuthea also said that the Fisheries officials involved in the triple killing on Monday are still being sought, and that the suspects were “fisheries officials from the department in Phnom Penh.”
On Monday, Nguyen Yang Kuor, 28, his pregnant wife, Yor Thy Bong, 26, and their employee, Khai Yang Hour, 21, were shot dead by Fisheries Administration officials armed with AK-47 assault rifles.
The couple’s two-year-old daughter and another 17-year-old girl were also on the boat but survived the hail of gunfire.
The Fisheries Administration officials fled the area after reporting by radio that they had been attacked by the fishermen and shot in self-defense.
Witnesses to the killings, including the teenage survivor, claim that the Fisheries officials opened fire on the unarmed fishermen without provocation.
The five fishermen were charged by the court on Thursday and could face 1 to 3 years in prison as well as fines if convicted, said Top Chan Sereivuth, chief prosecutor at the Pursat Provincial Court.
The fishermen are currently being held in the provincial prison, he said.
“According to the report from the Fisheries officials, they have committed this crime many times already,” he added.
Top Chan Sereivuth said that he will charge those involved in the triple killing on Monday, but said he is not yet sure who will be charged or what they will be charged with.
The arrest of the five fishermen, residents of the same Tonle Sap lake floating village as the slain fishermen, was not an act of intimidation by authorities attempting to protect the shooters, Top Chan Sereivuth added.
Fisheries Administration Director-General Nao Thuok said he still did not know which of his men were involved in the shooting or where any of them are now.
“We are looking for them,” he said.