The SRP sent a letter to Kompong Thom provincial governor Chhun Chhorn Wednesday to request that he take action against officials in Stong district for allegedly taking bribes to allow illegal fishing on the Tonle Sap lake.
In the letter, forwarded by National Assembly President Heng Samrin on Wednesday, SRP lawmaker Men Sothavrin claims that Peam Pang commune chief Phann Phan and Stong district Fisheries Administration official Yann Visak allowed fishermen to continue fishing during the breeding season—the period from June to September during which fishing is prohibited.
“In the breeding season the commune chief and the fisheries official in Stong district, both of them allowed all kinds of illegal fishing in order to take the bribes,” wrote the opposition lawmaker.
Mr Visak, the fisheries official, denied the allegations yesterday saying his team of three officials was preventing illegal fishing during this period. “We cracked down [on illegal fishing] many times and burned hundreds of meters of fishing nets on two occasions,” he said. “I never colluded with Phann Phan to take a bribe to allow illegal fishing.”
Nao Thuok, director-general of the Fisheries Administration at the Ministry of Agriculture, said he would investigate the claims of Mr Sothavrin.
“Illegal fishing is common in areas around the Tonle Sap lake in the breeding season, but our officials crack down on them every year,” Mr Thuok said.
Stong District Governor Hang Sithim said there was rampant illegal fishing on the Tonle Sap lake in the spawning season. He said the government banned fishing with gill nets and certain types of fish farming during this period as the farms require wild baby fish to feed the fish they are raising.
Mak Sithirith, director of the Fisheries Action Coalition Team, a non-governmental organization, said fishing often continued at this time of year because the many fishermen living off the lake needed a daily catch for their personal consumption and for their small fish farm operations as many fisherman don’t have an alternative income such as farming.
“Everybody knows this way is not sustainable, but what can the fishermen do? The Fisheries Administration should provide them with an alternative,” he said.