I am so happy today to be able to join the fourteenth national fish day organized at the irrigation system to the north of Phnom Penh. While I am speaking to you, my body is having a high temperature. I could not sleep last night. As there was football match too, I stayed awake the whole night. I rushed here early and some of my bodyguards did not show up on my departure time. I had a good sleep on the way here. I asked the driver to let me wash my face when we arrived.
Water Shallow, Less Fish and More People
Today we work together to release fish fingerlings for fourteen years in a row. It was my initiative. We started it in Kraingyov in Kandal province. We decided to make July 1 our day to release fish fingerlings. On July 9, which is eight days later, we have one other ceremony to celebrate – the National Tree Planting Day, to be presided over by HM the King. The event is for defending our trees and increase coverage of forest of our country. Why do we need to culture fish since Cambodia has abundance of it? The point is that we cannot depend on fish in nature anymore. In about 100 years ago, take for instance in the time of HM the King Preah Sisowath, in 1908, fishing lots were created and placed under control of businessmen. There were some resistances, for instance in Prey Veng to demand rights to manage fishing lots.
We could say that in those days, water system was deeper, there were more fishes and there were less people to feed. Behind my village, for instance, there were four or five big lakes never dried and there used to be so much fishes. At present, they all dried. The situation now and long ago is different. We had deeper water, more fish, and fed less number of people compared to now we have shallow water system, less fish and feed more people. This is the point why I said we could not depend on fish from natural system anymore. It requires that we must conduct fish farming in people’s own ponds, and release fish fingerlings in natural systems – lakes, rivers, reservoirs, etc. People can also farm fish in their rice fields, where they harvest both.
We should see that our country enjoys two regimes of water season – rain and flood. Silting leading to shallower beds of rivers, lakes, etc. happens every year. No one filled them. Dead leaves washed in and sat on top of one another. With silt, many lakes are shallower. It has been some years now that lakes behind high ground along the river of Mekong in our country could not draw water into their reservoirs anymore. Flood of the Mekong just flew downwards to the sea. In 30 or 40 years ago, fish fingerlings bred upon the system came down and washed into those lakes behind along the rivers of Mekong and Bassac. That those lakes lost its depth, they could not draw in water, thereby fish fingerlings with it. Those fish fingerlings then washed downwards to the Mekong system in Vietnam and millions of them died when they reached salty water from the sea. It is for this reason that we are working to restore and pump silt and sand from beds of the rivers to allow water to move into Tonle Sap lake, bringing with the water current fish fingerlings.
Aquaculture Started in 1980s
It is in this condition that I wish to take this opportune moment to clarify that aquaculture is nothing new for the Cambodian People’s Party as I became Prime Minister in early 1985, few months later we organized the fifth congress of the Cambodian People’s Party. The congress initiated promotion of aquaculture at that time there was war in certain areas. It was because war was yet to end we could not make more efforts to organize it into a regular and steadfast event. However, in gradual manner, we have widened the scope of the program and make them even more sophisticated and effective than before, with which more farmers have taken their new expertise of breeding aquatic animals.
HE Veng Sakhon, Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, has just made us a report about aquaculture, in which every year we released so many fish fingerlings into rice fields. Many farmers know how to breed fish babies and widely distribute them to other farmers who need them. Some of them learned to breed not only fish but also lobsters, thanks to the assistance provided by JICA of Japan, and sold them to other fish farmers or raise them by themselves. The amount of raised fish has gone up in large number and we could say that Svay Rieng is a leading province on fish farming in ponds.
The late (Heng Sam)Kai, former governor of Svay Rieng, said that people in the province would raise fish allowing them to roam freely everywhere when water went up high. He said fish would not stay in ponds and people let them go. When the breeze comes from north, they would return, not alone but with friends, and babies. Unfortunately, some of the ponds in Svay Rieng this year dried out for drought. We had to conduct a nationwide water provision campaign for sixty days. Now we have quite an abundance of rain and places like Mondulkiri had had flood for it. I am satisfying with our efforts so far for fish fingerings releasing into the natural system but I must advise that fish fingerlings releasing must keep going everywhere and every time that we can do it, not just on 1 July.
I am so pleased that we have finished reforms concerning fishing lots. What happened 100 years ago, since when France was in Cambodia, we have ended it. Agricultural Minister HE Veng Sokhon has just reported in his report about what we did to the fishing lots in 2000. Former Minister Chan Sarun came to see me also about cutting some parts of fishing lots about 56% for our people. However, even with that much given out, problem continued to build up. There were problems that people could not travel across the fishing lots. Fishing lots owners would arrest them. There were also conflicts between those who fish and those who cultivate dry season rice.
I then had taken a stern measure to give them all out to people and I would not stand down should there be any opposition in the Royal Government. After we had that implemented, I do not have headache anymore with the above-mentioned issues. It was very good thing no one in every sector involved did not oppose to it. The state lost some income from leasing out fishing lots but people receive real benefit from a large fishing area. The state only reserves some areas for fish species to recuperate.
Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries mentioned about the cause to death of so much fish in two or three years consecutively. Please allow me to advise that we must think of digging a pong in a larger pong, or a reservoir in a larger lake. That we know that the areas for fish species to reproduce are getting shallow we must take measures to deepen them. I would also urge our people not to catch those fishes gathering in the conserved areas. Wait until they grow bigger and move out into the wild to fish them […]
I keep on asking from our people after I had taken measure to close down fishing lots policy on seven points:
Firstly, people should not use illegal fishing tackles as they might cause accident to users themselves and to fish. Such radical action would kill so many species of fishes.
Secondly, please do not fish in fish recuperation season. We must take more measure to keep fish in this season. We may eat only one fish with fish roe would kill millions of them.
Thirdly, please do not clear off inundated forest but help growing or replanting them. We have now movements to grow inundated forest around the lake of Tonle Sap and mangroves on the coastal saline area.
Fourthly, please help protect conserved areas. People should provide information about bad people or officials who act in collusion to destroy conserved areas. In conserved areas, three hours of catch of fish would take up to the amount of fish they would fish the whole year. They get all the big fishes too.
Fifthly, please do not use lakes, canals other than fishing. There have been cases that people grow lotus, fill them with land for construction. Growing lotus would quicken how long lakes go shallow. Please do not fill in the lake to get land. We must deepen them instead for water consumption and for fish.
Sixthly, please avoid going into conflict between people on fishing issue, on dry season rice growing and on boundary between communes, district, and province. Boundary is just a line drawn for administrative purpose. We are Khmer and people should not fight for owning a certain place for fishing.
Seventhly, please take part in the National Fish Day on 1 July and promote aquaculture, keeping big fish species and endangered species, lobsters, etc. I thank our fishermen for reporting to fisheries personnel when they caught big fish and never kill them […]
Mobilizing Others to Do at One’s Will
I used to talk about what I called “urging someone to do something with a fish and lip.” It could be food for thought. There was a Buddhist monk who came by a pond that was drying up. He saw so many fishes. He could not catch them because it would be against Buddhist teaching and committing sin. He left an umbrella by the pond and hurried to pagoda. He then said to a pagoda boy that he left an umbrella by a pond, and asked the boy to go take it. The boy did and came back with fish too. There was one other case. Two old people, grandpa and grandma, went home from a fast day at Buddhist pagoda. As it rained hard at night, there were fishes crawling up in the path they treaded. They also could not catch the fish for the Buddhist teaching. They left a conic cover (used to cover food) there and hurried home telling their grandchildren what they left by the roadside. The grandchildren came and saw fishes. They took the both of them home.
Some politicians did that too. They do not do things themselves but instigate others to do it. Now, for example HE Yim Chhaily tickles HE Chan Sarun. Without knowing it, from a startling act, HE Chan Sarun threw his fist and got a tooth of HE Yim Chhaily. Can I ask who is to get the blame here? (People said the one who startled). I think diplomats would hear that. Let us mark this answer. Now between two other persons, while walking, one of them shouted – “you are scared to death.” The other one heard and said – “How dare you say that the imprisoned man.” Now, who should take the blame? – was it the one who blamed or the one who scolded? (People said the one who blamed.) Let us mark another one.
There is one other thing to ask here. A man has a wife legally and someone blamed his wife to be whore, and the man rebuked. Which one is wrong and which is right? (People said the one who blamed.) Thank You. Just mark another one down. This is what happened in Cambodia and this is what I said some people like it that someone else does it for them. Let me ask the Buddhist monks here, for those kids to go and return with fish, would the ones pretended to know nothing are free from sin? No, they are not or they would learn sermons but did not practice it.
Sand Pumping in the Mekong, Bassac and Tonle Sap
We have to make a plan as to where to pump and not to pump sand from the riverbeds. In some instances, some had gone to the extremes. We have had to pump sands from riverbeds of the Mekong, Bassac and Tonle Sap to make waterways for traffics. For instance, area of river before the Royal Palace, where we organized boat-racing event, we had to deepen the waterway there. If we do not pump out the sand, water current would continue to drill off either one or the other side of the river shores. The river of Bassac is dead in dry season because there are segments that no water traffic is possible. When we had to do those tasks, some had blamed us. That is one extreme thing to do. In other case, the one who pump sand, he does not do it as permitted during the day but do it at night. That is another extreme. We failed to check them up.
For people in Phnom Penh, some places have compounded their reactions on issue of trucks loading soil from riverside to level land and dropped them in streets. If they keep on doing that, we may have to stop them from the business. If they do not take our advice into respect, we may as well confiscate their trucks and licenses. We had to resolve issue when they pump sand in the river and had had to follow them up on land because they dropped soil in streets and disturbed or harmed others travelers.
To Meet Elderly Put Soeun, Hun Mani to Look into Roofing Request
I need to get back to see an uncle Put Soeun. We got information of where he is and we would bring him to my house. I will have lunch today with an 89 years old citizen who even in his old age had to exercise tricycle cart to make money. He asked someone to post his comments and asked to see me to ask for 1000 USD to build a home. I got his message and sent out for him. My father died when he was 90 years old. He was sick since when he was 88. As for this elderly fellow, he still could push the tricycle cart. Last night I talked to my wife that I may have to feed him for the last part of his life. He has eight children but they all are not well off. We must try to understand this situation and seek for a common solution for the formulation of policy for elderly people and figure out on policies that we have already in place what else needs to be done.
There is this request from a Buddhist monk to finish a roofing construction for a hall for monks to have their meals. I would delegate it to my son to go see and will figure out what to do. The district governor may go with him to see if only the roof that needs help. I would not promise what I will give but wait and see what we can do […] Have youth of Red Cross and scout learned how to dance squeezing your heels? If we have spare time after releasing fish fingerlings, we may throw a dance. Some faked the country to be in crisis. If we are in crisis, would ambassadors be coming this far? This place was battlefields and now we sit and release fishes. The win-win policy has brought us a true victory./.