Prime Minister Hun Sen declared Tuesday the elimination of commercial fishing lots in the Tonle Sap Lake and put it under preservation. However, the opposition party said it was merely a political ploy used to attract voters ahead of local elections in June.
“I would like to declare to all the people that there will no longer be any fishing lots in the Tonle Sap Lake,” Hun Sen said at a graduation ceremony in Phnom Penh. “They will all be eliminated.”
Hun Sen criticized commercial fishing operators saying that they have “abused” local residents by preventing them from fishing for their own consumption.
The large body of freshwater is located in central Cambodia and is one of the signature natural features of the country, providing a diet rich in fish for generations of Cambodians.
“It’s just a correction of mistakes that the government officials have done,” said Son Chhay, a National Assembly member from the Sam Rainsy Party. “I wonder how effective it will be. Or is it simply to briefly excite people ahead of the election?”
Cambodia will hold commune council elections in more than 1,600 jurisdictions on June 3 to elect local representatives.
There are 35 fishing lots in the Tonle Sap Lake which includes parts of the provinces of Siem Reap, Pursat, Battambang, Kampong Chhnang and Kampong Thom.
The Lake provides 230,000 tons of fish products yearly, providing a major source of protein to more than three million people in the country, according to statistics from the national fishery department. However, local communities have reported a decline in catches in recent years.
“If the declaration is serious, I hope fish products will increase,” said Tea Lov, a representative of Angkor Thebdei Agricultural Development Community in Siem Reap.