Increase in Fish and Prawn Farming

I am so glad to be here once again on the National Fish Day – 1 July that we celebrate every year. Last year, I missed the celebration because it fell on the election campaign period as I made a solemn promise that within the specified period of one month of the campaign, I would not make any statement. It is in this respect that last year we celebrated the day in Kompong Thom and HE Yim Chhay Ly had to represent me there. This year, nothing prevents me from joining all of you in celebrating the National Fish Day here in the reservoir of Kdol, village of Kraing Kantrol, Peam commune in the district of Samaki Meanjei of Kompong Chhnang province. It is indeed a great pleasure for me to be able to pay a visit to our people and Buddhist monks in the province of Kompong Chhnang.

I am so happy that we have celebrated so far this important event 12 years already, starting with the first event in the commune of Krang Yov, Kandal province. Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, HE Ouk Rabun, in his report highlighted progress and challenges in relation to fisheries sector in Cambodia. With pride, I appreciate every effort made by the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries as well as the Fisheries Administration in implementing reform after the dismantling of and returning fishing lots to people. We have also made stringent efforts to help people with fish culture. HE Ouk Rabun already pointed out about increasing number of fish culturing and breeding ponds. We even have come to the ability to release lobster babies into the natural system as well as in rice fields, in addition to lobster farming in ponds.

Water Getting Shallow, Less Fish but More People

Why do we celebrate the National Fish Day every year? Why do we have to raise fish at the same time? We have no other choice but to carry the two at the same time. As far as fish day is concerned we will not do it only on July 1 or in one place presided over by the Prime Minister. We must do it everywhere throughout the country. Our situation now is starkly different from that of 50 or 60 years ago. In those years, our natural water system was deep. That was good for more fish population and the number of people we had was small. As of the present time, we have come to a state that our natural water systems are getting shallow leading to less population of fish. Along with that, we have much more people to feed. That is the difference.

If we were to only depend on natural water systems – lakes or rivers, coupling with the fact that there are also increasing presence of illegal fishing and use of illegal fishing tools, we could not anticipate sufficient provision of fish for our booming population. These illegal fishing activities are decreasing the number of fish in contrast to the growing human population. Fish consumption has been a long-standing people’s source for protein intake. They consume a big amount of fish – either fresh, fermented in any forms or smoked, every year.

Fish Day on Any Day and Anywhere

We have come to challenges in both objective and subjective forms. Objectively, we need to draw a comparison of the present time to those of 30, 40 or 50 years before, when our natural water system were deep allowing for greater fish population. It is beyond our ability to manage and we cannot point finger at anyone when every year silt flown into the system and drops of inundated forest expedite shallow level of water. As for the reservoir of Kdol here, anyone of us could imagine how deep it was 30 years ago. Top soil and silt as well as leaves from trees and inundated forest all came into one place. People need top fertile soil for cultivation and doing that has led to more washing into the system.

Resting on top of one another, leaves from trees and inundated forest also create a situation of higher level of oxygen-consumed materials in the water that become residues. This causes lakes to be shallower too. Subjectively, when some individuals claimed land in the fishing lots, it creates challenging problems in both the Tonle Sap area and inundated forest. This is calling for people to be aware of their action and understand our effort to resolve this issue. Illegal fishing and using illegal tools to fish also contributes majorly for the loss of fish resource.

The objective aspect of the problem would require a great resource to deal with restoring rivers and lakes to its previous levels. In my native village, there used to be many lakes. Now they are there no more. They have become people’s dry season rice fields. Take for instance this reservoir, if measure are not taken for its protection, the dry season rice area on its rim would encroach. However, we must deal with subjective action regarding land claiming in fishing lots and illegal fishing, for instance. From the time of Minister Chhea Song to HE Chan Sarun and now Minister Ouk Rabun, agriculture, fisheries and forestry has made a long march and expanded gradually its scope of action. (To replace those lost in the natural system through objective and subjective factors) we must promote further farming of fish, lobsters, crab, frog, etc. anywhere possible.

Today, here, we release one million baby fishes and 100,000 baby lobsters. I hope people in this area would not catch them now. We should keep them together. We must wait for the one million baby fish to grow fully to give birth to more. The same is true for baby lobsters. We need to carry out this task together to increase fish and lobster population to couple with fish availability in the natural systems of the Tonle Sap lake, the Mekong River, etc. to meet our people’s demand for protein. This has called for our celebration of the July 1 Fish Day. To expand ability to feed we need to do this on any day and anywhere.

I would take this opportunity once again to express my sincere appreciation and thanks for the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries as well as the Fisheries Administration for their collaborative efforts in managing and promoting fish farming of all sorts to serve the need for protein intake of our people. I also thank the sub-national authority where there are lakes and water reservoirs of any sort for their commitment and effort to take care of them.

Seven Suggestions

I would like to take this opportune moment to seek your cooperation on certain points. Along with efforts made by local authorities, we should also collaborate for the sake of this common cause. As I said earlier on July 1, 2012 at the commune of Rokar Khnor, Kroj Chmar district of Kompong Cham province, I wish to recall seven suggestions I made then:

Firstly, please do not use illegal fishing tools. This has always happened. I noticed actions taken by authorities to combat this sort of violation. Frankly, I do not wish to see the police, local authority, military police and other competent forces to cause trouble to people in their illegal fishing. In order for such actions not to take place, I am calling our people to refrain themselves from using illegal fishing tools. I am begging you, not once but always, to use no such tools, such as to electrocute fish, as it would not only cause death to fish but also to human.

Secondly, please do not fish in fish spawning season. We are now in the spawning season, when fishing of all sorts is not allowed. This is not a new practice. It was here since the French colonial time. Fishing one in the spawning season, we also killed thousands of their babies. If we leave them alive, we will catch more of them when the cool breeze comes from the north. It would not be late even we wait until next year because for one mother fish we will get from four to five thousand of baby fishes. Well, according to expert, a mother fish of Chhpin (hypsibarbus lagleri) that weighs a Kilogram could spawn half-a-million baby fishes. The longer we leave them in the water the more fish we could anticipate from them.

Thirdly, please do not clear inundated forest and replant them. I wish to appeal in this point to our people living along the rivers of Tonle Sap, Mekong, Bassac as well as along the sea coast that clearing inundated forest, where fishes are spawning and taking shelter, would be disastrous for our country. Please do not violate or destroy them. We remove them, fish would not have place for reproduction. Please also help replant inundated forest in both fresh water and in coastal area.

Fourthly, please help protect preserved fisheries areas. You may need to inform about people or officials that are abusing the law in relation to the preservation of fisheries areas. The report of HE Ouk Rabun, Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries already hit this point. Our people are also aware, am sure, of the final fishing lots reform on March 8, 2012, after the first phase reform in 2000 that chopped out 56% of the fishing lots for people. I have utilized what I called my definite measures on March 8, 2012, to eliminate fishing lots created by the Royal Decree of Preah Baat Sisowath in 1908, from 104 years ago, that divided the fishing areas into private management lots for control by fishing merchants.

Chopping out, eliminating boundary and returning the fishing areas to the community and people to conduct legal fishing activities has brought our people so much benefits. There used to be conflicts between fishing lots owners and/or managers with individual fishermen. Those who earned the right to manage and control the lots would prevent people from crossing their area either by rowing or machined boats. Some had gone extra length to arrest people who row or fish in their areas. We decided, against those facts, to eliminate the fishing lots. However, we still keep some 97,500 hectares or 10.23% of the whole fishing area as preserved fisheries location.

May I advise the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries and the Fisheries Administration, in cooperation with concerned ministries and sub-national level institutions, to advance on mounting boundary poles to define location of preservation and build solid guarding tower. They must take effective actions to take care of preserved area of fisheries by creating a regular mechanism to monitor the area. As of now, people are not clear as to where the boundary of the preserved location starts and stops.

At the same time, I am asking for consideration and attention paid to issue of siltation in the fisheries preserved area. As the news goes, we have this problem of sediment in one of the preserved location in Battambang province. We also had incident that some 90 tons of fishes died in Kompong Thom province. We must find a solution for sediment in the Tonle Chhmar area, in particular, and for the whole fisheries preserved area too.

Fifthly, please do not use rivers/streams for worthless purpose. There have been actions so far to make worthless use of rivers/streams in contrary to family-based activities. Filling rivers/streams for growing lotus or building light construction of any sorts are unconstructive causes to our efforts too. Growing lotus could leave sediment that leads to shallower lake too.

Sixthly, there should not be conflict between fishermen and dry-season rice farmers and boundary disputes among communes, districts and provinces. Please note the fact that people from other place or commune can fish too. Let us live. Fishermen wish to drain out water from the reservoir to catch fish while those dry season rice farmers need to preserve water for their rice. This happened in Kompong Chhnang and in Kandal province. They sought my help.

Seventhly, please join together to promote July-1 National Fish Day. It is important that we have to promote fish farming and culture, while taking care of large fish species and other endangered ones. We have done quite a great deal in this front as thousands upon thousands of baby fishes and lobsters, and other aquatic animals are bred and given to people for their household farming and released into the natural water system.

I seem to have spoken too much. By the way, as it is now time for our people to start with cultivation, I am pleased to notice that where there is sufficient water, green rice either from sowing or transplanting is in sight. In just weeks, we have grown rice on over 800,000 hectares over planned 2.4 million hectares of rainy season rice. While promoting cultivation, I would urge your attention on the weather condition as there has a prediction that there would be a short dry period in this rainy season. People should take care of their rice field levees.

Cambodian Politics’ Two Possible Developments

Yesterday I brought it up straightforward with the Foreign Minister of Japan that Cambodia would have two developments. Firstly, the CNRP will join the National Assembly’s process through a rational negotiation. In that case, they should not act themselves as those of the Mafia to press for outcome. That is the best possible development and the door is still open for negotiation. However, they should not bring up this issue of two-third majority. I told the Foreign Minister of Japan that going for a two-third majority paradigm is tantamount to ending democracy in Cambodia. A two-third majority formerly specified in the Constitution had brought about stalemate in the formation of the Royal Government.

Now, to go for a two-third majority decision in the establishment of the National Election Committee, as they proposed, any obstruction (to the elections) would halt the process of democracy in Cambodia. I am making it clear here that I will not accept your push for two-third majority. There should just be conciliation among political parties with seats in the National Assembly. There could be a consensus already. However, we cannot bring an agreement by political parties in the National Assembly’s permanent commission for HM the King’s attention. There must be a vote by the National Assembly. It has to be an absolute majority.

They make it a condition that they will not join the process if they do not get the two-third majority formula. Nothing we can do to that. Every time they do not get what they wanted, they threaten with demonstration. I have warned other parties not to stage any counter protest. Now I cannot (because other sides also demand for their right to express their will). It is the people’s will to have us continuing to lead the country. They cried out it is the people’s will they do not join the National Assembly. We also can say it is the people’s will for us to continue leadership of the country. Why only you have people’s mandate? We have more voters. You should listen to our voice too. They call themselves elected candidates for the National Assembly. Does this not mean that they have recognized it? They recognized the electoral results, as we can see it, but they do not join the National Assembly.

As for the establishment of a TV station, I asked them to write a letter requesting for it. They said they would not do that. If ever they create a TV station, they will have to do it independently and not under the Press Law. It is up to you. You may go and set up a state in the moon. Every TV works under the law set out by the Ministry of Information. We allow no secession in Cambodia. Samdech Heng Samrin made it clear that the door is open for negotiation based on what (the two sides have) agreed upon. We would not accept your backtracking and swapping negotiators, while new subjects brought in.

I do not seem to have concern anymore now. As I said in 2003 to Nhek Bunchhay that there is this soldiers-to-soldier term “if it is too difficult, no need to talk to.” My concern now focuses on people’s agricultural cultivation, national security, maintaining macro-economy, making sure there is money for monthly salary of the armed forces, renovation of roads, water canals, etc. Guarantee that thing goes the normal way it should. They want to amend the Constitution, but they do not join the National Assembly. In 2011 or 2012, when the National Assembly needed to adopt the budget law, their members resigned to leave the National Assembly short of quorum.

Secondly, everything goes the normal way they should until the next elections in 2018. There is nothing else. I told the Japanese (Foreign Minister) that whether there will or will not be foreign assistance, the CPP-led Royal Government of Cambodia will continue its reform. We may have some reforms in relation to registration deadline. If you do not join us, we will still go with the reform. For example, according to the current law on elections, the specified period reserved for sorting out electoral complaint is short. We may make it longer. The procedure of registration is also something we can change in the electoral law. When we do not have a new law, the current law will continue to be in place. They do not join the National Assembly to get things done but pressure their will with threat.

Moving the date set for the general elections to a few months earlier is what we can do without having to alter the Constitution. We just need to amend the election law. The change of the electoral date from July to February or March, for example, can be done. In 2018, it will be up to them to join or not to join the election. There will be many political parties. There is one now led by Samdech Krom Preah Norodom Ranaridh that is ready to contest. Today we are here to release baby fishes and lobsters, not for the above concerns. Have the governors reviewed the status of the salary for officials, armed forces in the province? As of now, we do not have a forty-day month anymore. I would urge all ministers to look after this issue. We cannot afford to neglect it at all.

It is my conviction that our main concern rests mainly on whether we are going to have good crops, the production lines go well, any fund for roads renovation, water canals, etc. Some even bloated that we (the Royal Government) are running out of cash since April. I just wanted to brief them that Cambodia never begs foreign assistance to pay staff salary. We have never done that in our existence. There would be no country to give such money. Some, calling themselves independent analysts, figure out that the Cambodian economy will weaken. Well, there is this world cup soccer to watch. There is nothing abnormal about it. Last night was the match between France and Nigeria. Well, there is no contradiction between they do not join the National Assembly and follow the world cup event.

Well it is their rights to say whatever they want to but today I also have something to respond. It is my right too. If you join the National Assembly, I am also happy for you. If you do not join the National Assembly, I set sail for 2018./.