Suit Alleges 68 Fishermen Stole Grounds

Sixty-eight Battambang pro­vince fishermen are being sued by a commercial fishing lot sub-operator for 10 million riel (about $2,500) because they allegedly encroached on Tonle Sap lake fishing grounds leased by a commercial lot operator, Ek Phnom district Gov­ernor Toch Sunnara said.

Fisheries Action Coalition Team official Chin Vuthy said fishermen were fishing in the lot in waters near Kantrai village, Prey Chas commune, on March 3 when they were threatened by three armed guards who seized their equipment. Toch Sunnara denied the accusation.

Local fishermen claimed they have fished in the area for years, and hadn’t had any problems until the March 3 incident, Chin Vuthy said. He said the men were too poor to pay damages.

Battambang provincial court prosecutor Yann Yet said Wed­nes­day he had not received a complaint from the sub-operator.

Toch Sunnara said fishermen regularly encroached on commercial lots. He said he has asked the local fishermen and fish­­ing lot sub-operator to hammer out a compromise on three different occasions—the last time in May. But the request fai­led, he said, because the sub-op­erator refused to accept a deal.

In late 2000, Prime Minister Hun Sen made public the rights to more than 500,000 hectares of waters that had been privately leased. The transfer was intended to ease tensions between lot operators and poor fishermen.

But some of the designated grounds have left fishermen un­satisfied, FACT officials and local fishermen have said. Several disputes between commercial and local fishermen have erupted since Hun Sen’s order.

In December, about 120 fishermen in Battambang province’s Kbal Toal village, frustrated with grounds they said lacked fish and was dense with vegetation, set fire to the boat housing the village fisheries office.

Three weeks ago, two subsistence fishermen were shot and killed by commercial fishermen in Koh Kong province.


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