Indonesian navy says it did not shoot Vietnamese fishermen

The Indonesian navy has refuted claims by Hanoi that it shot and wounded four fishermen aboard a Vietnam-flagged fishing boat in the South China Sea over the weekend.

Navy spokesman Colonel Gig Sipasulta said a patrol on Sunday intercepted two Vietnamese fishing boats suspected of poaching in Indonesia's Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ), north of the Natunas, and chased them away by firing warning shots into the air.

"As such, there is no truth to Vietnam's statement," Col Gig told The Jakarta Post.

He added: "The navy always provides a measured response in accordance with protocol."

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He was responding to news reports quoting the disaster and relief agency of Vietnam's central Binh Dinh province, which said that four Vietnamese fisherman were shot and wounded by Indonesia's navy over the weekend during a stand-off in disputed waters in the South China Sea.

According to reports from Hanoi, the fishing boat was brought back to Vietnam's Con Dao island early on Monday morning and the wounded men were rushed to hospital.

"Two seriously injured sailors were sent to the Con Dao district's medical centre and their situation is improving," the agency reported.

The incident apparently took place last Saturday, about 245km south-east of Con Dao island.

According to The Jakarta Post report, there were at least two other similar skirmishes between the Indonesian navy and Vietnam- flagged vessels last week.

Indonesian patrol vessel Kapitan Pattimura made contact with the Deepsea Metro rig just outside the Indonesian EEZ on Sunday, while a fishing boat, the TG-92816-TS, was detained for poaching last Friday.

Those events followed a clash on May 21 between a Vietnamese coast guard vessel and an Indonesian maritime security patrol craft that was escorting five Vietnamese fishing boats which had been caught poaching earlier.

Both sides have since resolved the incident through diplomatic channels and said they hoped to prevent further future incidents in the South China Sea.

The latest incidents come just a week or so after Indonesia on July 14 revealed a new map depicting an expansion to its maritime territory with the naming of the waters off its northern perimeter as the North Natuna Sea.

Although it lies in Indonesia's EEZ, the waters north of the Natuna Islands bordering the South China Sea have no name and are often designated, albeit loosely, as part of the latter. However, Indonesia is not a party to the territorial disputes in the waterway, marked by overlapping claims by Brunei, China, the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia and Taiwan.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 26, 2017, with the headline 'Indonesian navy says it did not shoot Vietnamese fishermen'. Print Edition | Subscribe