On Monday, the Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency (MMEA) reported that a Vietnamese fisherman was shot and killed during an altercation with an MMEA patrol vessel about 80 nm off the coast of Kelantan.
The patrol vessel’s crew intercepted two boats that they suspected of engaging in illegal fishing on Sunday, according to MMEA Admiral Datuk Mohd Zubil Mat Som. At about 2340 hours local time, the crew attempted to board and inspect them, but the fishermen on board responded by throwing objects. The boarding team responded with warning shots.
“However, the warning shots were ignored and the Vietnamese even threw a Molotov cocktail and hard objects such as metal bars, large wood blocks and spanners at the MMEA boat, thus threatening the enforcement crew’s lives and government’s assets,” Adm. Som said in a statement. “The fishing boats then acted more aggressively by ramming into our boat, causing the MMEA crew to have no choice but to open fire in defending themselves and [MMEA] assets.”
12 additional Vietnamese crewmembers were arrested.
The agency’s standard rules of engagement for use of force were followed, Adm. Som said, but the agency will carry out an investigation into the circumstances of the shooting.
Trans-border illegal fishing is a constant source of regional tension in Southeast Asia, and Malaysia’s waters are no exception. An additional 20 Vietnamese fishermen were arrested off Sarawak on August 12 after inspectors found 40 tonnes of fish on board their vessels.
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