A Vietnamese-flagged fishing boat sank during an encounter between Indonesian and Vietnamese patrol vessels in disputed waters in the South China Sea on Saturday, April 27.
The incident began when the Indonesian Navy corvette KRI Tjiptadi was about to apprehend the Vietnamese boat, identified as BD 97916 TS, for alleged illegal fishing in an area 300 kilometres off the Riau Islands. The area is within the exclusive economic zone (EEZ) claimed by Jakarta as the North Natuna Sea.
Indonesian authorities claim the Vietnam Fisheries Resources Surveillance (VFRS) patrol vessels KN 213 and KN 264, which were escorting BD 97916 TS at the time, attempted to prevent the fishing boat’s seizure by manoeuvring dangerously close to Tjiptadi.
Indonesia further asserts that the crew of KN 213 deliberately rammed their vessel’s bow into Tjiptadi’s starboard side even though the Indonesian sailors had not opened fire.
BD 97916 TS then sank almost immediately, though Indonesian authorities did not clarify whether the sinking was a direct result of KN 213’s ramming of Tjiptadi as all four vessels were in close proximity of each other.
Two of the fishing boat’s crewmembers were rescued by the VFRS vessels while the remaining 12 were brought on board Tjiptadi. The apprehended Vietnamese fishermen have been in Indonesian custody ever since.
The Vietnamese government has refuted Indonesia’s claims, saying that the fishing boat was within Vietnam’s EEZ and that the VFRS vessels were merely preventing Tjiptadi from interfering with legitimate fishing activities.
Vietnam’s Foreign Ministry has since requested the Indonesian government through the country’s embassy in Hanoi to establish the correct facts by conducting a more thorough probe into the incident, to prevent similar incidents from happening in future, and to release the 12 detained fishermen.
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