Fish farm owner angers residents
By Phyo Wai Kyaw and Hlaing Kyaw Soe 9 | Monday, 16 June 2014
A fish farm owner fed up with poachers on Taungthaman Lake in Mandalay Region has upset locals by erecting a security hut to catch them out. Hundreds of Amarapura township residents gathered at the security post on the lakeside last week wanting to destroy it but were persuaded not to after the police and officials from the Department of Fisheries intervened. Owner U Chit Kaing has since removed the hut but discontent has not abated. Residents complain that previous fish farm owners who came across poachers at the lake merely confiscated their nets and the fish they had caught rather than involve the police. U Chit Kaing, however, asked police to apprehend poachers, resulting in four arrests on June 4. Previous owners, residents said, had also set a time when, for a fee, locals could fish in the lake. They complained that U Chit Kaing had placed thorn bushes around the lake’s edge to discourage fishing. U Chit Kaing however said the measures were needed to nurture fish stocks during the breeding season. “I already gave two months’ chance for the fishermen to catch fish in this area until June 2. After that … I banned catching fish during the breeding season,” he said. U Chit Kaing insisted that he has the long-term welfare of the lake in mind as well as residents’ livelihoods. “I can’t work without the residents’ help when the season comes to catch f ish. I intended to form a team for the residents who really want to cooperate with me and I can help them to stand on their own two feet,” he said. “I can do such things for them but they are too weak to follow rules. When they gather as a crowd, it could turn into a problem and could encourage violence.” But Ma Naing, a housewife from nearby Pyathat Kyi village, doubted U Chit Kaing would offer much in the way of assistance.
She said previous fish farm owners had opened a free medical clinic for residents and helped support children financially at school, but that now her children had to go barefoot. “How can we poor people survive and make a living if we don’t have the chance to catch fish?” Daw Gyan, also from Pyathat Kyi village, told The Myanmar Times. U Aye Lwin, head of the Department of Fisheries for Mandalay district, said U Chit Kaing got permission to run his fish farm in April. He warned residents not to catch fish during the breeding season. Those who do could face a fine of K2000 or three years in prison, or both.