Intrusions by Vietnamese fishermen into ocean areas claimed by other countries have climbed dramatically during the last five years, with thousands of fishermen arrested and held by neighboring states, according to a Vietnamese government report.
Covering the period 2011 to 2016, the report released on Tuesday by the Standing Committee of Vietnam’s National Assembly to assembly delegates detailed more than 1,000 separate cases in which nearly 14,000 Vietnamese nationals had been seized.
Areas in which their boats had been captured included the national waters of Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia, the Philippines, and several Pacific Island nations, the report said.
At the same time, illegal fishing by Chinese vessels in Vietnamese waters is also on the rise, Vietnam’s General Department of Fisheries announced on Dec. 5.
In 2015, Chinese boats observed fishing in waters claimed by Vietnam numbered around 5,200, while last year the number climbed to more than 15,000, the Department said.
On Nov. 29, Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte released five Vietnamese fishermen detained two months earlier for suspected poaching, as he assured Hanoi that bilateral ties were “very strong” despite frequent territorial disputes in the South China Sea.
The fishermen were arrested in September off Cape Bolinao in the northern Philippines.
Duterte apologized while bidding the fishermen farewell during a ceremonial send-off as they left the Philippines to return to Vietnam.
In November last year, Duterte also freed 17 Vietnamese fishermen who had spent two months in detention after Coast Guard officials took them into custody on charges of poaching in Philippine waters.
The Philippines and Vietnam are among six nations that have territorial claims in the South China Sea. The others are Brunei, China, Malaysia, and Taiwan.
Fishermen from claimant nations have often been arrested for straying too close to each other’s shores, fueling tensions and complicating the territorial conflict.
Reported by RFA’s Vietnamese Service. Translated by Emily Peyman. Written in English by Richard Finney.