Selected Speech Samdech Techo Hun Sen, at the Closing Session of 2021 Annual Review and 2022 Directives Setting Conference of Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries [Unofficial Translation]

CNV: 23/03/2022

In addition to the prepared text, Samdech Techo Hun Sen addressed the audience with the following elaboration that CNV transcribed and translated unofficially

[The Prepared Text]

Sixth, must continue to promote development of all forms of aquaculture effectively in accordance with the “Strategic Plan for Aquaculture Development 2016-2030” to ensure the supply of domestic fish and export quality, safe, and competitive, and at market value […]

[Start of Elaboration]

I would like to make this point the core of my order today relating to fishing. First of all, I would like to commend the efforts of the leaders of various institutions as well as the provincial authorities on the Tonle Sap Lake, led by His Excellency Deputy Prime Minister Chea Sophara, who have made efforts (to protect our Tonle Sap Lake resources). The Tonle Sap Lake had reduced its size, more than 60,000 hectares smaller. That is why I keep asking what you, the governors of the provinces around the Tonle Sap Lake, are doing? Why do you governors let cutting down the flooded forest continue none stop?

If we do not take measures to take back the land, we could have lost it. How many ministries whose responsible concerned flooded forest – the Ministry of Agriculture is there, the Ministry of Water Resources is there, the Ministry of Environment is there. Would it be a matter that because there too many involved things could not be done? […] it is in our national interest. If allowed (to happen we would lose it) one year after another […] just imagine, how small would the Tonle Sap Lake shrink to? […] we agreed and adjusted two areas in Kompong Thom on the map, and we have transferred to the state more than 60,000 hectares. The returned areas is the target of replanting trees for flooded forests […] those of you who are the governors of the provinces around the Tonle Sap Lake have to take responsibility […] more power has been given to them and the ministry, which is responsible, must also increase its capacity to solve problems.

Fisheries laws have not yet been ready. I still (remember) that I have raised this issue since the day I released the young fish at the river Vai Ko in Svay Rieng. It is not ready because you do not do it. The Ministry of Agriculture has the following three lines – Forestry Administration; Fisheries Administration; and Department of Agriculture. So one head, three legs […] these past weeks I have been following with great attention. Investigators who went to study the situation were not experts, nor judicial police. They have no right to arrest. They sent me information. I sent it to the provincial governors. Our provincial governor said he could not catch the perpetrators because (their boats) were too fast. How fast? Let us park our helicopters nearby and fire from the above. Where could person go? Pursat has later captured (the perpetrator). The other provinces still could not find them […] the army commander and the police chief are here today. Give them your supports and find a way to get rid of corrupt traders who destroy fish […]

The Ministry of Agriculture itself should be a little active. They have the fisheries department and why has it not been doing the job? I may repeat what I said before […] when preparing a sub-decree, involved ministries always demand power. For instance, (the Ministry of) environment in the time of Mok Mareth demanded power […] that means demanding a sword from the Prime Minister. The Prime Minister gives the sword, but when it is time to use it, they handed it back to the Prime Minister […]

[…] A provincial governor sent a message to (me) saying – “we worked hard, but always could not keep the operation a secret.” Where and how the secret is lost? […] in the past, that you report catching this or that number of perpetrators, they were only small rowers or Kohler machines fishers, but you never catch the big ones. What is behind this unstoppable story? Was it a fact that our officials take bribes or something? […] the Ministry of Agriculture has now a great number of Secretary of State and the Undersecretary of State […] you must divide provinces to work on the issue among yourselves […]

We have now transferred more power to the provinces. If the province were not responsible, for what did you need the power? Yesterday, I went to read a speech about the transfer of more power to the sub-national level, and I stressed on a point that if the sub-national level refused do the job, and waited (for order) from above, why did we transfer power? […]

Due to the high number of fishing offenses, some people suggested the idea of setting up a fishing lot for the private sector to help manage. I ordered the National Television of Cambodia to replay my commentary for about 4 to 5 hours about the cancellation of the (100) year old fishing lot. I remember that it was about 2012 that we canceled (private fishing lot). Let the national television play again so that people know why I canceled the fishing lot. Now, that some perpetrated fishing issues with loose crackdown measures, some suggested private control and that would recur suffering on our farmers […]

Dispute between the owner of the fishing lot and the dry season rice farmers, where the owners of the fishing lots need to drain the water to catch fish, and the people need to keep the water for dry season rice is not too simple. Some scholars do not understand the problem. Why did I have to cancel the fishing lot created some 100 years ago? We revoked King Sisowath’s royal decree from 1912 in 2012 […] in some places the lot owners shoot to kill people. We cannot for the shortcomings in proper cracking down measures – allow private ownership of fishing lots again […]

We wanted our farmers to benefit, but now some beneficiaries do in some places and do not in some other places because of this group. Those (perpetrators) are not poor people […] when you talked about cracking down on fishing offenses, you can only crack down on small fishers, and/or small fishing boats operators. You have not been able to catch yet boats that caught one/two tons of fishes at a time […]. As far as logging is concerned, it is the same. You may have cracked down on small-time forest criminals […] but not the right loggers […]

We lost flooded forest on the one hand and the fish resource on the other. We must replant trees in the more than 60,000 hectares (that we have taken back from perpetrators) to protect the Tonle Sap Lake […] the leading force is the provincial governors. Regardless of the provinces in the Tonle Sap region, we have transferred power to all provinces. The office of agriculture is under your power and […] you do not need the Ministry […]. Now, when you go back, make your own plan to crack down on fishing offenders. I think you have more than enough power. The issue is whether you know how to use that power or not […]

[…] We have the names of the criminals sent to the provinces. The provinces reported that they fled. Two days later, one caught in Pursat. Siem Reap has not caught yet. At that time, (Governor Tia) Seiha was busy at an event in Kampong Som […]

If we do not take thorough measures and fail to suppress it, the national interest will be lost due to these perpetrators. The efforts of the people and of the hard-working civil servants are sunk in the offenses of some officials, conspiring with the traders […] fish farming must be raised, but we must also protect natural fish. We have not yet been able to deepen areas in the Tonle Sap Lake. We did it deeper in some places for mother fishes, but this year it may not be like last year because the water level is still a bit high. Last year, the area reserved mother fishes was shallow. We needed to study and check to make the place for mother fishes deeper […]

I make issuing this order a priority. Recommendations alone are not enough. I issue order because it has reached that stage already […] that is your authority. When I raised the issue, you did it. When I did not bring it up, you stayed idle […] people are benefiting from our abolition of fishing lots. We give those fishing lots to the people to form communities and areas that we need to protect. In the past, with fishing lots everywhere, we only received a few million dollars a year. When we offered it to people, the benefit is greater. However, the implementation has not been as we intended yet.

Up to now, 10 years ago, in 2012, […] I was busy pushing – first, the old politics, new activities in the land sector. That requires young people to measure the land to own the people, and second, reform and eliminate fishing lots for the benefit of the people. Now that some merchants have created anarchy, some have brought back the thought of re-creation of (fishing lots) for private protection on argument that they have the strength. What about the government forces, the army, the tens of thousands of police? If the fisheries department is not responsible, the military police force, if necessary, immediately release the soldiers to do so (crack down on illegal fishing). Mainly because we do not do it […]

In each province, you have a way to organize your strength to do that. If the secret plan to catch those people gets out of the bag, (the perpetrator of the crime) would run and could not catch any fishes too […]. Either they continue to carry out offenses or they face arrests. Sometimes we send out forces to stay (in the area around the lake) so that the perpetrators do not dare to do (fishing offenses). Sometimes, we pretended to take no actions, but in fact, we do have a plan. Bring them to proper justice […] I reaffirm here that we must replant trees everywhere, especially the more than 60,000 hectares of (confiscated) land to make it become a flooded forest in the next few years to re-enrich the fish resources […]./.

[End of Elaboration]