Jun 26, 2019 / 07:04

Vietnam, Indonesia agree to no use of force for fishermen

The Hanoitimes - Hanoi and Jakarta agree to treat fishermen of either country humanely.

Top Vietnamese and Indonesian defense officials have agreed that the two sides will treat fishermen of either country humanely, avoiding the use and threat to use force.
Vietnam’s Deputy Minister of Defense Nguyen Chi Vinh and Indonesia’s Vice Admiral Agus Setiadji in Hanoi on June 25. Photo: VNA
Vietnam’s Deputy Minister of Defense Nguyen Chi Vinh and Indonesia’s Vice Admiral Agus Setiadji made the commitment on Tuesday [June 25] in Hanoi, according to VnExpress. 

At the meeting, both sides said the intrusions by fishermen of both countries into the other’s territory largely resulted from the incomplete maritime delimitation and fishers should be tolerantly treated. 

Vinh and Setiadji agreed to consider the establishment of joint maritime forces to deal with related fishing incidents while using their hotlines efficiently to resolve any incidents in a timely manner without triggering tension that would affect the countries’ ties. 

Vinh said fishing incidents should be dealt with humanely and in accordance with international laws, including the provisions of the 1982 United Nation’s Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), with respect to the laws of Vietnam and Indonesia.

The Vietnamese defense official said it should not become a regional issue as fishermen’s purpose was simply to make a living, and they did not mean to violate the laws. He said many Vietnamese fishermen had strayed into Indonesian waters and violated the country’s laws just because of limited knowledge of maritime laws. 

Vietnam doesn’t want such incidents to happen, he said.

Meanwhile, the Vietnamese Coast Guard has been given similar guidelines to deal with foreign fishermen caught in Vietnamese waters. “They are supposed to stop them, not arrest them and restrain from destroying or seizing their fishing gear or taking them to court,” VnExpress quoted Vinh as saying.

Maritime delimitation 

Indonesia and Vietnam have agreed to speed up maritime delimitation, while at the same time starting fresh talks to establish “provisional common guidelines” to prevent fishing incidents, according to the Jakarta Post. 

In a latest move on June 22 at the 34th ASEAN Summit in Bangkok, Thailand, Indonesian President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo met Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc where they agreed to accelerate the ongoing negotiations on the delimitation of their exclusive economic zones (EEZs).

“The negotiation has taken a long time, and the two leaders stated that efforts to resolve this negotiation should be accelerated, otherwise we would experience incidents like we have experienced so far,” the Jakarta Post cited Indonesian Foreign Minister Retno LP Marsudi.

The EEZ delimitation with Vietnam is one of five active border negotiations Indonesia is currently engaged in. In 2003, the two countries reached an agreement on a continental shelf boundaries after 30 years of negotiations. 

Widodo and late Vietnamese President Tran Dai Quang also discussed steps for early conclusion of the negotiations during the former’s visit to Hanoi in September 2018.

Indonesia since president Widodo took office in 2014 destroyed hundreds of foreign fishing vessels with more than half from Vietnam. Last year, Indonesia destroyed 86 Vietnamese fishing boats for allegedly fishing in its waters.

The situation become worse in April 2019 when Indonesia arrested a group of Vietnamese fishermen fishing in an area where Vietnam and Indonesia are delimiting their EEZs. 

The Vietnamese boat with 14 fishermen on board was seized and towed away at high speed by an Indonesian ship, causing the Vietnamese boat to sink. Twelve fishermen were taken into Indonesian waters, while two were rescued by a Vietnam Fisheries Resources Surveillance’s vessel.

The case triggered concerns and the Vietnamese Ministry of Foreign Affairs handed over a diplomatic note to the Indonesian Embassy in Hanoi to oppose Indonesia’s use of force on Vietnamese fishermen, who were operating within Vietnam’s waters, 5.5 nautical miles north of the 2003 continental shelf delimitation line.