Thailand’s government does not allow foreign ships to fish within its waters, but it does not mean law enforcement officials are allowed to conduct violence against fishermen of other countries, a Thai diplomat said.
Thailand thus feels regretful for the improper acts Thai coast guard force directed against fishermen from the southern Vietnamese province of Kien Giang earlier this month, Tanee Sangrat, deputy general director of Department of East Asian Affairs under Thai Foreign Ministry, said at a meeting on Thursday.
A delegation led by Thai Consul General to Ho Chi Minh City Panpimon Suwannapongse met Kien Giang authorities in the Mekong Delta province to discuss measures to promote bilateral cooperation in aquaculture and aquatic animal exploitation.
But the event was overshadowed by the shooting that killed one Vietnamese fisherman two weeks ago.
Six local fishermen were fishing off Kien Giang on September 11 when they were stopped by coast guard officers on board the ship Thai Police 528.
Ngo Van Sinh, the captain and steersman of one of the fishing boats, was killed, while two others were injured as the Thai officers opened fire at them. One of the two injured men, Nguyen Hung Cuong, 40, was shot in his thighbone.
The Vietnam Fisheries Resources Surveillance Department underlined that the site is in the waters between Vietnam and Malaysia, wheres Thailand insists that the location of the shootings lies about 40km from their Narathiwat Province, which means it is well within Thailand’s waters.
At the Thursday meeting, Kien Giang deputy chairman Mai Anh Nhin expressed his vehement objection to the shooting and requested that Thai authorities probe it, punish those involved, and compensate for the human and property losses of the Vietnamese fishermen.
Sangrat, the Thai diplomat, responded they are very regretful that the Thai coast guard force has taken improper acts against Kien Giang fishermen.
Sangrat added that relevant Thai agencies are investigating the case under the Thai government’s direction.
He also expressed his hope that such a regretful incident would not be detrimental to the strategic partnership relations between Thailand and Vietnam.
At the meeting, the two sides agreed that the government of each country will ask its enforcement force not to use, or threaten to use force against fishermen of the other side in overlapping waters between the two countries.
Kien Giang officials suggested that a hotline be set up between the two sides to help legally handle any incident at sea, avoiding regretful consequences.
Ten offshore fishing boats and 79 fishermen of Kien Giang have been seized and penalized by Thai law enforcers since 2014 when they were operating in the overlapping waters, according to Nhin.
On September 17, the Vietnamese Ministry of Foreign Affairs issued a diplomatic note to the Thai Embassy in Hanoi, asking Thailand to probe the September 11 attacks and punish those individuals involved in accordance with the Thai law.
Three Thai fishing ships have also been found fishing illegally in Vietnam’s waters, but there was no violence conducted by the Vietnamese side.
On Tuesday morning, the foreign ships were found illegal fishing in the waters off the southernmost province of Ca Mau, according to Colonel Le Huy Sinh, deputy political commissar of the Vietnam Coast Guard of Zone 4.
The location is about 15 nautical miles northwest of Vietnam’s DK1/10 marine platform, which is an economic, scientific and technological service station, the official said.
The Vietnam coast guard unit in Ca Mau eventually escorted the foreign boats out of Vietnamese waters the same day, instead of opening fire at them.