… Today, I have a great pleasure to join with all of you and monks to celebrate the National Fish Day (NFD) of July 1st because I will be busy in the month of July. HE Minister for Agriculture Chan Sarun already made the case of would-be enormous interest in releasing about half a million fishes into the natural system in the village of Prey Angkunh, the commune of Prey Kandeang, the district of Peam Ro of Prey Veng Province. As today falls on the Buddhist fast day I have the belief that they would be alive and well and will be reproductive for generations to come.
… The release of fish today is the third time in a row after the issuance of the sud-decree number 99 on September 2002 leading to the first release of fish into the natural water system in the canal of Prek Kompoeus in the village of Tuol Thnung, the commune of Rokar Thom, the district of Chbar Mon of Kompong Speu in 2003, and the release for the second time in the lake of Punnareay in the village of southern Phum Thom, the commune of Punnheapun, the district of Punnhealoeu of Kandal province. As is listed out in the report of HE Minister for Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Chan Sarun, in the 1980s and 1990s, a number of works have been done already.
… If I was not mistaken, in its fifth Congress, the Cambodian people’s Party had in its resolution listed a bunch of policies regarding the fishery issues in general, fish culture in particular, as if we would like to diversify the sources of protein from fish. It was from that time that actions had been taken to mobilize fish culture, first of all in the province of Svay Rieng. Later on we have this method of culturing fish in rice fields, which according to successive reports by HE Chan Sarun, Takeo province proved to be a successive story.
… What remains to be questionable for all of us in relation to the destruction of fish and fish breeding grounds are over-fishing and use of illegal and forbidden fishing tools. Take for instance in 2003-04 the flood level was insufficiently high leading to fall of the fish catch. However, in 2004-05, fish catch increases as flood level seemed to have reached favorably high level. But the catches in the two years mentioned would not be sufficient for an evaluation to be made on causes to the low catch in 2003-04 and high catch in 2004-05. I would urge the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries and, especially the Fishery Department, to continue its research to find out these causes, as I have seen that evaluations had been made so far on just some aspects of the issue.
… In general our people give their account of natural judgment on low or high catch of fish based on superstition that it would vary from year to year without scientific explanation. Here we have to look into this matter with scientific management and conservation. It is very likely still that fish catch this year, despite the fact that some fish species would continue to nurture high population, will see that some would definitely be less. Because of severe drought this year, and of and on over the past ten years as is mentioned in the report of HE Chan Sarun, certain species of fish take for instance snakehead fish, etc. would suffer a big blow on its population. Most of the lakes which conserve this kind of fish have dried up, despite sporadic rains. Shallow water ways compounded the problem.
… Some lakes dried and became dry-season rice field instead of fish breeding ground. Actions have been taken to conserve fish by means of keeping those conservation systems deep and de-silting. The Mekong river system from its origin to its flow end into the sea, parts of which have been shallow and stuck. As I will leave the country on July 3 for the second summit of the heads of states and Governments of the Greater Mekong Sub-region’s riparian states in the Chinese Yunnan’s Kunming. The first summit was convened in Phnom Penh in 2002.
… With efforts made by Cambodia, the Mekong River Commission which in those days registered only four countries – Laos, Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam, with the support of the Asian Development Bank, we have come to the establishment of the greater Mekong sub-region summit, which also include Myanmar and China. In a recent press article, I have read about impacts from the construction of dams in the upper part of the Mekong in China and the deepening driveway for navigation down the Mekong system based on the Agreement reached by four countries – China, Myanmar, Lao and Thailand. In its conclusive remark, the article gives its analysis that Myanmar gives less attention to the Mekong river because they have small number of people living along the water way. As for Thailand, the article said he is supporting China, while Hun Sen considers China a priority in his foreign policy. Vietnam has been taking reserved position on this matter.
… I remember that in the ASEAN + China meeting in 2000 HE Premier of China Ju Rongji informed the meeting that China had reached an Agreement with Myanmar, Lao and Thailand, in deepening the water way for navigation down the river system. In that instance I reacted quickly for due inspection and consideration to be given on environmental condition for riparian countries down the stream. We then had successive explanations from China and we finally had sent a delegation of the five riparian states to visit China to study what might be the impacts on the Mekong. We have taken a coordinative approach vis-á-vis the Mekong of concerned interests. I hope that China as a country on upper Mekong would not neglect interests of riparian states down the stream.
… It has proven positive result as so far we have coordinated different interests vis-á’vis the Mekong without getting stuck with any conflicts at all. Coordination efforts have all been done and documents will be laid down for signing in the Kunming’s GMS second summit. We should also be aware of the fact that some also raised this issue for the sake of environmental consideration but also hindering close cooperation among the riparian states of the Mekong. In my prepared text I have mentioned clearly that the greater Mekong sub-region would not be turning into a free trade area but more likely to be a cooperative zone.
… Previously in Thailand they wish to divert water current of the Mekong for irrigation purpose, but Cambodia disagreed. When Laos planned to build its hydro power, Not only the Lao authority, but also the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank, whose loans are given to Laos for the construction, have also come to consultation with Cambodia before the project was given the green light. Only in Pol Pot time that in its five-year plan, Pol Pot planned to build a dam across the Bassac, a trunk of the Mekong, and divert water for irrigation in Kompot province.
… Coming back to our fish situation, I would have your attention that most of the water reservoir, no matter how deep and never-dried water resource, have mostly dried out this year, while rain has yet to come in plenty. As we have taken measures for natural disaster, attention should also be made to prevent possible and further man-made disaster. Man-made disaster would eventually be destructive to our fish availability. I would therefore advise our people to use no illegal fishing means to catch fish especially in the no-fishing season. One fish has a reproductive capacity of 500,000 fish at a time. If we eat a fish this time of the year is like we destroy 500,000 fish as well. I also recall that about 56% of the fishing area of more than half a million hectares have been opened for people’s fishing access since 2000-01.
… Though I have to confess once again of the three things that I was late to instruct reforms. First, I was late to introduce land reform in the 1980s, as I later understood that I should have done it earlier than that. Second, I was late in inducing reform in the forest sector, and eventually left the forest sector to suffer anarchic loggings in between 1993-98. I proclaimed the fight against the anarchy only on October 22, 1998. Third, it is the fisheries that I was late to declare reform. I was encouraged by the fact that France was forced to re-configure the fishing zone in Prey Veng in face of protest by the Cambodian fishermen. It was inappropriate that we used the fishing zone mapping in the early 1910s or 1920s for a situation in 2000, when we have more population.
… What remains to be done is that we have to set up about 375 fishermen communities in accordance with sub-decree that allowed our people to be the master of their own resources. I would once again urge our people not to fish in time of fishing prohibition, while not destroying inundated forest. We will continue to release more fish into the natural water systems, including in the water canals and other irrigation systems.
In that occasion Samdech Hun Sen offered a building of six classrooms to the College of Kandeang, two buildings of twelve classrooms to the Primary School of Babaong, with many others that local CPP leaders have brought for the province earlier.