News / Economy

Sea Dispute Spotlights Plight of Vietnamese Fishermen

Vietnamese coast guard officer monitors Chinese vessel in the South China Sea, about 210 km (130 miles) off coastal Vietnam, May 15, 2014.
Vietnamese coast guard officer monitors Chinese vessel in the South China Sea, about 210 km (130 miles) off coastal Vietnam, May 15, 2014.
Vietnamese captain Dang Van Nhan has been left idle in his hometown of Da Nang following the sinking of his ship in the South China Sea last month. 

Shortly after the ramming incident with a Chinese ship, contributions began pouring in from all over the country. But they have not been enough to help him build a new $200,000 fishing boat that would get him back to work.

While China and Vietnam continue trading accusations over aggressive behaviors, it is fishermen like Nhan who have borne the brunt of mounting tensions in the disputed waters.

Vietnamese fishing crews have been urged by authorities to maintain their presence at sea to protect the country’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. But critics say that might put them at risk while the confrontation between the two neighbors shows no sign of abating.

Some on social media networks go even further, suggesting that fishermen are being used by Hanoi as human shields, an accusation denied by Vietnamese officials.

Tran Van Linh, Chairman of the Da Nang Fisheries Association, told VOA’s Vietnamese Service that authorities have never forced Nhan or others into danger.

“They are asked to protect the nation by continued fishing in our territory," he said. "We instruct them to retreat if they encounter Chinese forces. They are told not to provoke or to act aggressively. What China has done is to dishearten us not to carry on fishing, to occupy our sea illegally.”

This week, Vietnam’s parliament, the National Assembly, endorsed a budget of more than $756 million to support its maritime forces and fishermen.

Lawmaker Nguyen Si Cuong, a permanent member of the Assembly’s Legal Committee, told VOA that it is a necessary move.

“Fishermen are currently facing a lot of difficulties at sea, so we have to help them do their jobs," he said. "It does not mean we support them in venturing out to face off against Chinese forces.”

Colonel Nguyen Quang Trung, Chief Commander of the Coast Guard of Region 2 in central Vietnam, agreed with Cuong’s comment, saying sea law enforcement teams have been beefed up to reassure fishermen.

Hanoi and Beijing have accused each other of escalating tensions since the placement a Chinese oil rig in waters claimed by both countries.

For his part, Nhan told VOA last week that he was looking forward to going back out to sea as soon as possible.

Vietnam has said it plans to revamp fleets of wooden-hull fishing boats with steel-clad ones, raising hope in Nhan and other fishermen who rely on the ocean for their livelihoods.

This report was produced in collaboration with the VOA Vietnamese service.

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Comment Sorting
by: John Smith from: I hate bullies
June 12, 2014 8:50 AM
China is trying to turn the Western Pacific into its own lake under its own rules, riding roughshod over at least four other countries in the process.
"Might is right" it believes to be the case. The same approach taken by countless tyrants in history - the last one being Nazi Germany. It did not present its case to the UN until five weeks after it had parked the oil rig in VN's EEZ. It only did so after vocal and universal denunciation from just about everyone concerned in the region and beyond (ASEAN, Japan, France, Australia, USA and also G7).

China is one of only three countries in the world which asserts that all maritime activities in its EEZ would be subject to its rules / laws - not just the mandatory 12nm territorial waters [the others are North Korea and Peru]. Without the exposure to and condemnation from the civilized world, China would continue to act in a bullying fashion in the manner of someone drunk on power.

by: Aurora from: USA
June 11, 2014 8:25 PM
For almost a decade since China declared 9-dash claim, China coastguard and fishing boats have acted like Pirates of South China sea, ramming, sinking of Vietnam fishing boats and beating, arresting Vietnam fishermen right inside Vietnam EEZ.
Google "Vietnam fishing boat attacked youtube".

Enough is enough. Vietnam government must strengthen coastguard force to protect fishermen otherwise fewer and fewer fishermen would dare to venture to the sea fishing. Eventually, the Vietnam EEZ East sea would become China's sea in practice with only Chinese boats fishing.

Vietnam coastguard must be equipped with camera system to record evidences of any piracy acts by China fishing boats and China coastguard ships and sophisticated communication / radar system to support VN fishing boats as these events occur.

Yes, more investment is needed to protect the beautiful sea of Vietnam. Please also seek help from Japan on sea technology.
In Response

by: Proto from: Singapore
June 12, 2014 5:39 AM
Nine-dash line had been there at 1947 by the then Taiwan's government before during the civil war. The parties of China were never invited to sign the agreement of borders when the war ended. In a way, China never agreed to the current water borders.
In Response

by: Jonathan huang from: Canada
June 11, 2014 11:58 PM
Get rid of greedy viet cong first!

by: Chi Le from: USA
June 11, 2014 7:31 PM
The position of placement the Chinese oil rig is in the water region 200EEZ from Vietnam’s coastline. The water region belongs to Vietnam without the disputed water region, according to the international Law of the Sea. The long-term Chinese plot is to change water regions’ status and convert the other country’s undisputed water regions to disputed water regions.
It is sad for the Vietnamese fishermen who haven’t been protected from China’s aggressive actions in their own country.

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