World

Vietnamese fisherman killed in clash with Malaysian coast guard

KUALA LUMPUR : The Malaysian coast guard shot dead a Vietnamese fisherman whose boat tried to ram a patrol vessel in the South China Sea, an official said yesterday.

The incident took place inside Malaysian waters, where local fishermen have complained in the past about Vietnamese fishing boats that damage their nets.

Coast guard chief Zubil Mat Som told AFP that two Vietnamese fishing boats had entered Malaysian waters some 80 nautical miles from Tok Bali, off the north-eastern state of Kelantan late on Sunday.

"The coastguard crew had earlier fired warning shots in the air but after they rammed and threw a bottle of petrol, my men had no choice but to open fire in self defence," he said.

Mr Zubil alleged the Vietnamese crew had thrown petrol and a tyre to try and set fire to the coast guard boat, which was damaged by the "aggressive ramming".

SADDENED

One Vietnamese fisherman suffered gunshot wounds and was pronounced dead after he was brought to shore.

"We are saddened by this deadly incident. But I can guarantee... my men took this action to protect their lives and to protect our national sovereignty," Mr Zubil added.

The Vietnamese boats with the remaining 20 crew members were towed to the coast guard jetty.

Parts of the South China Sea are subject to rival claims by Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam, while China claims the entire waterway.

The rival claims to the sea, which straddles vital shipping lanes and covers rich fishing grounds, makes it a potential flashpoint for conflict.

China and the Association of South-east Asian Nations - which four claimants are members of - are in talks for a code of conduct in the area.- AFP

WORLD