PHNOM PENH, Jul 1, 2019, The Phnom Penh Post. Prey Veng provincial police were continuing to question five of six Vietnamese nationals on Sunday after they were detained in a crackdown on Friday in which police fired nearly 30 bullets to halt an illegal fishing operation on the Mekong River, reported The Phnom Penh Post.
The incident, which occurred in Peam Chor district’s Svay Phlos commune, saw one suspect hit in the calf by a bullet that police say rebounded off the riverbank.
Prey Veng provincial Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Department director Ouk Samnang told The Post on Sunday that his authority was questioning five suspects at Prey Veng provincial police headquarters regarding the alleged illegal fishing activity.
He said a sixth suspect was receiving medical treatment at the provincial referral hospital.
Samnang said he did not know when the police would send the suspects to the provincial court.
On Friday night, he said, a provincial joint task force was conducting a crackdown on illegal fishing in a protected area. He said that during the operation, the police fired 27 bullets, injuring one of the six suspects in the calf.
Samnang said Prey Veng deputy provincial police chief Keo Rethmony led the operation in collaboration with Svay Phlos commune police.
“My task force did not participate in the actual operation. But the suspects are being detained at Prey Veng provincial police headquarters and my team of experts and police are questioning them,” Samnang said.
He said the six suspects were aboard three fishing boats when the police asked them to stop so they could question them, but the suspects refused and instead tried to steer their boats into the police boats, Samnang said.
The police, who were on two motorboats, fired at the suspects before they were able to intercept the illegal fishing boats and detain the six suspects, he said.
Neither Prey Veng provincial police chief Prum Santhor nor Rethmony, who led the operation, could be reached for comment on Sunday.
However, in an interview with Fresh News, Rethmony said the injured suspect was a 34-year-old Vietnamese male from Kampong Chamlong village in Kandal province’s Loeuk Dek district.
He confirmed that the suspect’s lower right leg was injured and he was sent to Prey Veng Referral Hospital.
“When the fishing boats saw the police were after them, they tried to escape by smashing into the police boats. When the police saw that, they fired bullets upwards into the mud, but one bullet rebounded and hit a suspect in the right calf, injuring him,” Rethmony told Fresh News.
He said that in 2017, one of his officers was killed during a crackdown on illegal fishing.
It followed villagers filing a lawsuit requesting intervention from deputy task force chief Pich Chivoan to crack down on people who were using prohibited fishing equipment in Prey Veng province’s Peam Chor district, he said.