TAIPEI • Taiwan yesterday denied that two of its fishing boats were poaching in Indonesian waters in the Strait of Malacca on March 21 when they were shot at by an Indonesian patrol boat.
In Taiwan's first official comments on the incident, Taipei's Fisheries Agency director-general Tsay Tzu-yaw said the boats were sailing at between 7 knots and 8 knots, at which speed they were "unlikely to be setting nets and fishing", as quoted by Central News Agency (CNA).
The statement was issued in reaction to claims by Jakarta that the Sheng Te Tsai and Lien I Hsing No. 116 vessels were poaching on the Indonesian side of the Strait of Malacca. Indonesia claimed that the two boats were shot at after they refused to stop when ordered to and tried to ram the Indonesian patrol boat.
The incident came amid tensions elsewhere in South-east Asia involving China fishing boats.
A Chinese patrol boat recently forcibly prevented the Indonesian maritime authorities from detaining a Chinese fishing boat that was allegedly poaching in Indonesian waters near the Natuna Islands.
And the Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency claimed that dozens of China fishing vessels were found off Malaysia's Sarawak coast, though this was denied by the Malaysian navy yesterday.
Last week, a third Taiwan boat, Ting Sheng, was reportedly stopped in the Strait of Malacca by an Indonesian patrol boat. The fishermen claimed that they were forced to pay bribes.
Taiwan, in its response to the first incident, said that the two boat captains vowed that they had not tried to ram their ships into the Indonesian patrol boat, as claimed by Indonesia, CNA said. "Agency officials who investigated the two boats found a total of 17 bullet holes and scars," the report said.
In the second incident, Indonesia said yesterday that the Ting Sheng was stopped in the strait for a routine check and was released without any further action because it had all the proper documentation.
"The allegations are baseless, and could have been the result of grudges from the fishing boat crew," said navy spokesman Suradi Agung Slamet of the claim that a US$300 (S$410) bribe was solicited.
•Additional reporting by Wahyudi Soeriaatmadja in Jakarta