Authorities in Siem Reap province are searching for dozens of ethnic Vietnamese fishermen accused of attacking a group of their Khmer counterparts with steel poles while they were working on the Tonle Sap river on Monday night.
A group of 18 Khmer men were plying the river in Prasat Bakorng district at about 10 p.m. when a motorboat full of Vietnamese men sped between their fishing vessels and destroyed their nets, according to district police chief Min Chantha.
“Our Khmer fishermen tried to stop the boat to ask why they drove their boat through their fishing nets, but a few Vietnamese on the fast boat telephoned their accomplices to come with eight more boats, and then they attacked,” he said.
“The victims told our authorities that about 40 Vietnamese people came with eight boats and they struck Khmer fishermen with steel bars and tools, then escaped on their boats.”
Mr. Chantha said 13 people were injured, five seriously, but that none had gone to a hospital.
“We are now cooperating with the district military police to work with the victims in order to find the perpetrators,” he said, adding that the search had been narrowed down to an area known as Chong Kneas in Kompong Phluk commune.
All 18 of the victims have filed a complaint with police, the police chief said, with the 13 injured demanding $1,000 in compensation each.
As fish stocks in the Tonle Sap and its tributaries plummet, violent clashes between fishermen have become more frequent, often pitting Khmer and Vietnamese communities against each other.
Earlier this month, an ethnic Vietnamese man was slaughtered with a machete by masked men who boarded his boat over what authorities called a “personal dispute.”
Noeng Ny, chief of Kompong Phluk commune, on Tuesday claimed that while “97 percent” of Cambodian fishermen were using legitimate methods, ethnic Vietnamese fishermen relied on outlawed ones, such as trawling with fine-mesh nets and blocking off streams to corral fish.