Vietnam demands answers to fisherman’s death in South China Sea incident

A Vietnamese fisherman was shot after his boat tried to ram a patrol vessel off the waters of Kelantan on Sunday.

PETALING JAYA: Vietnam’s foreign affairs ministry has demanded that Malaysia investigate the death of a Vietnamese fisherman who was shot after his boat tried to ram a patrol vessel off the waters of Kelantan on Sunday.

The Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency (MMEA) yesterday said two Vietnamese boats rammed a MMEA vessel and that someone threw a bottle of petrol at the officers. This resulted in the coast guard crew opening fire and killing a Vietnamese fisherman.

Vietnamese foreign affairs ministry spokeswoman Le Thi Thu Hang said Vietnam wanted Malaysia to open an investigation into the case in which two Vietnamese fishing boats and 20 fishermen were detained by the MMEA for allegedly fishing illegally in Malaysian waters.

She also said the ministry had directed the Vietnamese Embassy in Malaysia to obtain more details of the case from the authorities and to organise consular meetings with the fishermen.

Meanwhile, MMEA chief Zubil Mat Som said his men had acted in self-defence in the incident some 80 nautical miles from Tok Bali, off Kelantan.

“The coast guard crew had earlier fired warning shots in the air but after the Vietnamese boats rammed and threw a bottle of petrol, my men had no choice but to open fire in self-defence.”

Malaysia and Vietnam are among several rival claimants to certain parts of the South China Sea which is a potential flashpoint for conflict due to its reputation as a strategic global shipping zone rich in resources.