Indonesian navy denies it shot and wounded four Vietnamese fishermen

Indonesian navy soldiers ride a rubber boat doing ambush exercise during the launch of coordinated patrols to beef up security among Malaysia, Indonesia and the Philippines off the Tarakan sea, in Tarakan, Indonesia, on June 19, 2017. PHOTO: REUTERS

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

Navy spokesman Colonel Gig Sipasulta said a patrol on Sunday (July 23) 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 in the air.

"As such, there is no truth to Vietnam's statement," Col Gig told The Jakarta Post in a report out on Tuesday (July 25). "The navy always provides a measured response in accordance with protocol."

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

According to reports out of Hanoi, their fishing boat was brought back to Vietnam's Con Dao island early 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 on Saturday, about 245km south-east of its 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.

They include an incident on Sunday when Indonesian patrol vessel Kapitan Pattimura made only contact with the Deepsea Metro rig just outside the Indonesian EEZ, as well as an earlier incident on Friday which resulted in the detention of another fishing boat, the TG-92816-TS, for poaching.

These events follow 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 that had been caught poaching earlier. Both sides have since resolved the incident through diplomatic channels and had said they hoped to prevent further future incidents in the South China Sea.

They also 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 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.

Indonesia, however, is not a party to the territorial disputes in the waterway, marked by overlapping claims by Brunei, China, the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia and Taiwan.

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