National Fishery Day Celebrated Not Far from Birth Village
Today I am so happy to join with you all to celebrate the July-1 National Fishery Day in the reservoir of Khnaj, the village of Wat, the Commune of Tuol Preah Khlang, the district of Stoeng Trang, Kompong Cham province. This place is not far from my home village. I just met my relatives who have come from the commune of Peam Koh Snah. I also see that we have the presences of Excellencies and Lok Chumteavs, leaders of the Senate, the National Assembly and the Royal Government of Cambodia. I wish to inform you that my village is about ten Kilometers from here, to go through shortcut. It would be about 30 Kilometers if you go through normal communal roads.
The Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, HE Ouk Rabun, has just mentioned in his report about issues relating to progress achieved in our effort to increase fish population by releasing them into the natural system and fish farming. I would like to take this opportune moment to express my warm greeting to progresses made and my appreciation to the Ministry of Water Resource and Meteorology for the reconstruction of the water reservoir that is covering an area of 215 hectares with a capacity to keep some 6.7 million cubic meters of water. The reservoir has maintained its depth of two meters in dry and ten meters in rainy season. This has allowed the reservoir to provide water for irrigation on a dry season rice land area of 670 hectares in the communes of Tuol Preah Khlang and Prek Bak of Stoeng Trang district, where there are 1,452 households.
The main idea of restoring and maintaining water level of the reservoir is for serving our people’s need for cultivation but also release of fish of various species. We are releasing today over one million fish of various species plus those of lobsters and other aquatic animals. I hope our people will not catch them now but wait till they are grown up. Once those fishes reach maturity, including their eggs and new breeds, people in the commune of Tuol Preah Khlang as well as those in this area, should they utilize family and legal fishing tackles, will not lack fish for their consumption. Again, I am so thankful for the efforts made in realizing such irrigation system that allow our people to benefit from the chance to cultivate and to raise and catch fish in this area.
I had been to some countries in the course of sub-regional meetings, I have noted that Cambodia, the southern part of Vietnam, Thailand, Laos and Myanmar have similar weather condition. It means that rain has come rather late causing issue of lacking of water almost everywhere. It seems that Thai has been facing more serious problem than we do. From the helicopter’s bird-eye view, I noticed that there has not been new water or rain-fed water into any lakes at all. The climate change condition and impacts in the region as well as in the whole world is quite alarming. However, I also noticed that our people continue to cultivate. Today is July 1, when (the Mekong) flood (season) would rise leading later to inundation along the Mekong feeding zones, which are not far from here.
Why National Fishery Day?
It is indeed a great pleasure for me to be able to join with the celebration that we release baby fishes into the system and this is my thirteen time to take such a presence. Why do we need then to release baby fishes into the system? I mentioned this in Kompong Chhnang province last year already but I think I should say a few things today. If we were to wait for fish resource to be provided by natural system, there would be no way for us to ensure enough fish for consumption. The Minister HE Ouk Rabun already reported that the Cambodian people rank first in fish consumption as annual average consumption per capita is 52 Kilogram.
The geographical set up of this area can prove. People in this area from the age of 50 and above may know that on one side of this lake running along Prek Sangke (of the commune of Peam Koh Snah) through to Preah Andong, Khpop Tanguon and Boeng Rai of Prek Prasap of Kratie, there used to be many lakes. In the 1950s and 1960s there were plenty of fish. Those lakes were registered as state property under management of the commune administration. Some of the lakes were registered since the French colony in 1908 as fishing lots managed by private owners, from whom the state earned their annual charge from leasing those lots.
As far as I could remember, from Prek Sangke, Tuol Roka, Dey Loeu through to Peam Koh Snah, there used to be many lakes. The pattern repeats all the ways to Kratie. According to the report I have, among them, only the Boeng Veng lake, which is behind Boeng Rai, that is still deep and maintaining its ecosystem. Other lakes have gone shallow and people have turned them into their dry season rice area long time ago. Silts and dropped leaves stand on each other year after year in the lake. This has accumulated over years. The lakes are shallower. People then use them for growing rice. This has led us to a completely different situation – previously, natural water system were deep and there was a small people to feed, and now, natural water system are shallow but we have a bigger population to do so.
As I passed that side, I saw (a lady) with three children. I also have 17 grandchildren and no one is beating me on that. In one stage, when the French colony was in Cambodia in 1862, the Cambodian population was only over one million. When HM the King Preah Baat Sisowath organized the fishing lots in 1908, I would suppose that the Cambodian population was somewhere between two and three millions. The water reservoirs were then deep and there was a small population. As of now, the Cambodian population is 15 millions. Compared to Laos, in 1979, Laos had some five million populations. Now Laos has some six millions. As for us, we have come from about five million in 1979 to now 15 millions.
With the number of population markedly increase, we cannot depend entirely on fish resource from the natural systems of Tonle Sap Lake, the Mekong river, the Bassac river and other lakes. There is an obvious reason for us in resorting to fish farming and releasing baby fishes into the natural water systems. Fish day should be held not only one day on July 1 but on a regular and everyday basis. Where there are any places that releasing fish is possible, we must keep on doing it. The Fishery Department of the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries will continue to serve as provider of baby fishes for this effort of increasing fish population in all renovated and newly dug natural water systems.
Fish Farming for Consumption and Commercial Purpose
According to the report by HE Ouk Rabun, in 2014, the amount of fish from farming had jumped to some 300,000 tons compared to some 120,000 tons last year. It is an encouraging sign. We need to make sure that fish farming continues. In the whole wide world, we should observe, not many countries can provide fish to their people without help of fish farming. They all have ways to raise fish population to provide for increasing people’s consumption demand. Some even raise fish commercially for export. Take for instance, HE Nguyen Tan Dung, Prime Minister of Vietnam, told me that his country earned over two billion USD from export of Tilapia fish.
Vietnam has got many lakes like Cambodia. They raise fish for consumption and for commercial purpose. We also need to find ways to raise fish. We have plenty of natural lakes and we also have the ability to dig more ponds to raise fish. We should combine fish farming and releasing fish into the natural systems altogether. When we restore our reservoirs, we also need to release fish into the systems. The Ministry of Water Resource and Meteorology will dig new ponds or restore reservoirs and the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries will follow with its tasks to mobilize people to grow and to do fish farming.
We have some 665,000 households who actively involved in fish farming. We have about 300 fish hatchery places, of which 292 places owned by our people. This has illustrated that our people acquire now technology trained by the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries to raise fish. I also have some ponds where fish farming can be done. The thing is we dug land from one place to level up area where we built houses and working offices (in Tuol Krasaing). Those land holes have now become our ponds. We then raise fish in them.
With this said, I am asking for opinions of the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries as well as those of the local authorities of all levels on this particular issue of land holes left from digging for soil. As the need for construction increases, the soil to level up areas for construction also jacks up. This has led to increasing price of land. I noticed that in some places, Phnom Penh and provinces alike, people seem to have left those holes unused. There was this incident that a helicopter in training fell into one of them the other day. If owner of the hole converts it into fish farming ponds, it would give him commercial use again after selling the soil. To cover it up would not be that beneficial. We should allow people to take the benefit from selling soil to raising fish in those pits.
Returning Fishing Lots to People and Community on 8 March 2012
I have been at the forefront in leading the reform of the fishing lots. We did it in two stages. Firstly, in 2000, when there was this millennium flooding, from the province of Siem Reap I declared trimming out 56% of fishing lots for use by our people. However, the remaining parts of the fishing lots continued to cause trouble for the Prime Minister and the Royal Government of Cambodia. People could not row boats through the privately restricted fishing lots. People could not fish there. There was also conflict between those who grow dry season rice and those who need to dry out reservoir to catch fish. To sort everything out (I made a decision) on 8 March 2012 to finally bequeath all fishing lots, decreed by Preah Baat Sisowath over 104 years ago, for people’s use.
I decided to remove all restriction except about 10% of the fishing lots that need to be kept for fish species preservation. No one is entitled to fish in the restricted fish species preservation area. Fish of all species will retire after flood season to this preserved area and will set out into the public fishing areas again in the next season. However, because of lack of water or low water level for two consecutive years in the preservation area, together with wind gust, some 200 tons of mother fishes died.
As we now return right to our people to own those fishing lots, we also have created fishing communities. We need to organize and strengthen real people’s fishing communities. I have a report here that we now have some 516 communities. I am urging all communities to serve our people’s need so that they benefit from our efforts to preserve fish and every fishing season.
People’s Participation and Sub-National Level Leadership and Responsibilities
I have mentioned about reasons why we need to release fish and conduct fish farming in addition to preserving fish species in the natural water systems, especially areas where now canals are dug and lakes are deepened or restored for irrigation. There have also practices of farming fish in rice fields, by which people collected both rice and fish. However, I have to reiterate the seven suggestions/recommendations to all involved and call on sub-national level and local authorities to take responsibility. For instance, in places where we release baby fishes, no one should be there to fish. This also calls for participation of our people. I am asking for leadership and responsibility from leaders of all levels of sub-national authorities.
Our problem has been that sometimes provincial and district or even communal leadership thinks it is trivial issue. Mind you, many trivial issues would make a big problem. I am calling on participation and responsibility from authorities of all levels together with the Fishery Administration. According to previous practice, the Fishery and Forestry Administrations are not functioning under the direction of the provincial authority. By law, it has not been incorporated yet. However, we allow them to participate with the provincial unified command mechanism. It would be insufficient for the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries to carry it out alone. There is a need for participation by all – provincial authorities, soldiers, police, military police.
I have put out seven recommendations previously. I think I will repeat them now and every year. Firstly, please refrain from using illegal fishing tools. Any forbidden tools for electrocuting fish and other banned nets must not be used. I have one question. Maybe the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries or the Fisheries Department could try and explain. Why do they hang banner in Phnom Penh telling people not to do so and so with regard to fisheries practice? It is just my recall and maybe those involved should try and think of doing things in a more proper manner. They even hanged it up near the Prime Minister’s house.
Secondly, please refrain from fishing in time of breeding. This is one common point that we must be united to get thing done. If we were to eat one fish with eggs inside, we were to have killed thousands of baby fishes to be. Should we leave those mother fishes to breed and wait for time to catch them when the northern breeze arrives, we would have a good catch. The fish population will be abundant because of the mother fishes. If we release over one million fishes, we would then be able to collect hundreds millions of fish. It is in this simple idea that I am seeking our people’s understanding not to catch fish in time of breeding or fishing ban season.
Thirdly, please refrain from destroying inundated forests but replanting them. This point is so applicable for lakes where inundated forests/bushes need to be protected. We also need to help grow once again those forests/bushes. This should be applicable also for the coastal areas. I am calling on all concerned agencies and communities to pay attention to this issue.
Fourthly, please help protect preserved zones – by providing information about those committed and involved in destroying them. I am repeating that this point is to call on all concerned parties and communities to help protect preserved zones as they are places where fish breeds. When they grow bigger, they will swim out of the preserved zones. They will be available for everyone to catch. It has been noted that destructive actions in those zones were carried out by either civilians or institutional agents. We must proceed with planting poles to mark the frontiers and our people should help protect those zones.
Fifthly, please do not use the lakes or waterways for wrong purpose such as filling them with soil, growing lotus or buildings.
Sixthly, please avoid conflict between people who fish and people who grow dry season rice and water frontiers among communes, whereas people from anywhere should be allowed to fish. As I said earlier, people who fish wish to release water out of the reservoir to catch fish while people who grow dry season rice would need to retain water until they harvest. As the state has returned fishing lots and reservoirs management to communities, I am of the opinion that people of the two groups can discuss when to fish and when to keep water in their reservoirs. People from places where there are no fishing areas must also be allowed to fish.
Seventhly, please take part in the July-1 Fisheries Day to promote fish farming, aquaculture, preserve the various and endangered species of fish, and hatching of fish, aquatic animals such as lobsters and crabs. I wish to affirm that the national fisheries day should not be observed only on July 1. We must do it every other day and wherever there is suitable environment for fish to survive and breed. We also need to promote fish farming everywhere the environment allows for the sake of people’s need for consumption. That is about all I have to say about fisheries.
Plane Crashed in Indonesia, Heat Wave in India and Pakistan, Earthquake in Nepal
Today on behalf of the Royal Government and people of Cambodia, we are expressing deep condolences over the death of 116 Indonesians on board the Indonesian military plane which crashed yesterday. While sharing the grief with President and people of Indonesia on this fatal incident, we also are sharing with the Governments of Kuwait and Tunisia which suffered terrorist attacks over the past days. The world is in turmoil. We are also sharing grief with India and lately Pakistan over the death of their citizens from the heat waves. Cambodia seems to have been lucky. We are experiencing hot weather and lacking water. In India alone, some 2,000 people died of heat wave and in Pakistan the same cause took about 1,000 lives. In Nepal, tens of thousands of people died while a strong earthquake shook the country. Cambodia experienced strong wind gust and lightning. We must take extra measures.
As I am here today, close to my native place, I think I might want to pass by my village as it is facing with the possibility of being eroded into the (Mekong) river. In the past, between my house and the river, there was a distance of about one kilometer. Now the house is not far from the river shore. There was a suggestion a while ago to move the house out. My brother then said we should leave it for a while. It is still there now. It seems that the land along the shore is now safe from erosion and taking a growing turn. I wish to have a bird-eye view over there and proceed to Chhlong, Tambe before returning to Phnom Penh.
Districts of Stoeng Trang and Kroch Chhmar – Ferry Service and Prime Ministers
I wish to affirm a few points about the ferry service between the districts of Stoeng Trang and Kroch Chhmar. The ferry station on the side of Stoeng Trang of Kompong Cham province stands at Prek Kak while the opposite station in Kroch Chhmar of Tbong Khmom province stands at Tria commune. We are going to build a bridge across the Mekong River at Prek Kak. However, while waiting for it to happen, and since we have two ferries discharged from service at Neak Loeung, we are providing ferries services between the two districts – Stoeng Trang and Kroch Chhmar.
I demand the governors of the provinces – Kompong Cham and Tbong Khmom – as well as HE Yim Chhay Ly and HE Chea Sophara, to look into this. Today, we also officially put into official service the ferries to relieve people’s difficulties in crossing the mighty Mekong from one side to the other. Previously, crossing of the Mekong here used wooden boat and there had been problem of overcharging the pre-determined service price. I would like to inform our people who travel along this area that there is a ferry service here before we are going to build one more bridge across the Mekong at this place. It may consume more gas but ferry is safer.
I am so happy to take part in this meaningful occasion. As for Stoeng Trang district, in the Cambodian history, three Prime Ministers come from this district. In Lon Nol time, there were two Prime Ministers originating from this place – In Tam and Hang Thun Hak. HE In Tam is from Prek Kak. He already passed away. HE Hang Thun Hak was killed by Pol Pot. Hun Sen is still here. I have been with people more than half of my life. I am now 63 years old. My father died at 90 years old. My grandfather died at 93 years old. My grandmother died at 92 years old. My mother passed away at 78 years old.
CLV, CLMV and ACMECS
I am leaving our people for a trip to Japan. It will take a rather long absence since after joining a meeting in Tokyo I will conduct a visit to a prefecture in Japan. I will leave tomorrow. As of this time tomorrow, I could be in transit as the plane will be landing for fueling. The flight will be against the wind. I will return on July 6. I will take part in the five countries member meeting called the Japan-Mekong Summit. A few days ago, a number of so-called analysts came up with remarks that CLV, CLMV and ACMECS are just a bunch of communist countries. The fact that Japan does many offer of assistances to those countries, would that make it a communist bloc? It is insane. I am so sorry to see that we have some Cambodians who are so naïve.
In ASEAN, we have group of countries – Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam or CLV and the CLV Development Triangle Area, for which Japan assists. Whenever there is this ASEAN Summit, Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam always takes the chance to meet with Japan. There has been encouragement for the four countries that are new members to ASEAN – Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and Vietnam – to work together to reduce the gap with other member countries of ASEAN. There has also a cooperative strategy that the five Mekong countries work with Japan, (South) Korea, US, etc. How come those analysts who call themselves pundits label the blocs as communist? There are also other sub-regional mechanisms of cooperation among Myanmar, the Philippines, Indonesia and Brunei, who also are eyeing Japanese assistance.
Probing Info from Callers to Bayon Radio
There was someone who called Radio Bayon telling that s/he would come very early in the morning to join this ceremony to release fish into the lake. Maybe the Bayon Radio staff who received the calls should also take down their addresses or ask more information of the caller’s area such as if s/he has been able or not to start working in rice fields. There used to be one MC of Bayon Radio who knows how to interact with callers and asked around for information. However, there is a need for him to be elsewhere in Bayon TV programs./.