Shooting of fishermen: MMEA followed rules

PUTRAJAYA – Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency (MMEA) personnel had adhered to the firearm rules of engagement before firing shots at Vietnamese fishing boats in an incident, about 180 km from Tok Bali, Kelantan, said its director-general Admiral Datuk Mohd Zubil Mat Som.

He said in an attempt to detain two Vietnamese fishing boats in the 11.40 pm incident, in which one Vietnamese was shot dead, the MMEA crew had earlier fired warning shots.

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“However, the warning shots were ignored and the Vietnamese even threw a Molotov cocktail and hard objects such as metal bars, large wood blocks and spanners at the MMEA boat, thus threatening the enforcement crew’s lives and government’s assets.

“The fishing boats then acted more aggressively by ramming into our boat, causing the MMEA crew to have no choice but to open fire in defending themselves and (the government’s) assets,” he said in a statement Aug 17 on the incident.

Besides one Vietnamese fisherman dead, the MMEA also arrested 12 remaining crew members of the boats.

Mohd Zubil said the incident occurred outside Malaysia’s territorial waters (over 12 nautical miles from the baseline) but it was still within the Malaysian Maritime Zone.

He said MMEA took the matter of the aggressiveness and extreme actions of the Vietnamese fishermen seriously, which threatened the lives of the Malaysian enforcement personnel and government’s assets.

“A transparent investigation will be carried out accordingly on the incident and MMEA will continue to enforce the law and existing Standard Operating Procedure in guarding the country’s waters against encroachment,” he added.

In Sarawak, 20 Vietnamese and two fishing boats were detained, 225 nautical miles north of Tanjung Po, near Kuching, on Aug 12.

Sarawak MMEA director, First Admiral Robert Teh Geok Chuan said the arrests were made during ‘Op Naga Timur’, while the boats were fishing using the joint trawling method.

“Upon inspection, 17 crew members including the skipper were found on the first boat, while on the second boat, three including the skipper were carrying out illegal fishing,” he said in a press conference.

He said 40 tonnes of fish, 13,000 litres of diesel and the two boats were seized, with the total value estimated to be RM2.5 million.

— BERNAMA