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Cambodian Fishermen Hope for Crackdown on Illegal Thai Fishing


“It’s a heavy crime,” Eang Nam said. “Please, European Union, do whatever to punish the people who abuse Cambodians on fishing boats.”

“It’s a heavy crime,” Eang Nam said. “Please, European Union, do whatever to punish the people who abuse Cambodians on fishing boats.”

Thailand’s fishing industry has received a “yellow card” warning from the European Union for failing to address illegal fishing operations.

The European Commission in April said it was putting Thailand on notice “for not taking sufficient measures in the international fight against illegal fishing.”

The EU is campaigning for sustainable fisheries, the Commissioner for Environment, Maritime Affairs and Fisheries, Karmenu Vella, said in a statement. “Failure to take strong action against illegal fishing will carry consequences.”

Interviewed recently, Cambodian fishermen said the warning could help them, because fish from Cambodia’s vast Tonle Sap Lake and others might find a better market in Thailand if illegal fishing operations there are curtailed.

“We have good fish, and if the fish fetch a good price, people can export the fish” to Thailand, said Eang Nam, the chief of a fishing community in Kampong Cham province, where 40 percent of the 60,000 people make their living fishing.

A crackdown would also curb forced labor on fishing vessels, where conscripted men, many from Burma and Cambodia, are forced to work in slave-like conditions.

Cambodian fishermen fishing in Chaktomuk river, Cambodia.

Cambodian fishermen fishing in Chaktomuk river, Cambodia.

​“It’s a heavy crime,” Eang Nam said. “Please, European Union, do whatever to punish the people who abuse Cambodians on fishing boats.”

A number of Cambodian fishermen echoed his sentiments. However, in order for Cambodian fishermen to benefit from a crackdown on illegal operations in Thailand, they must improve their export capacity, said Kong Chanthy, head of a fishing community in Stung Treng province. Otherwise, mostly the middlemen benefit, he said.

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