Two crews returned to Ly Son Island last weekend after reportedly being beaten and robbed by Chinese pirates.
Le Khoi of Ly Son Island (governed by the central province of Quang Ngai) met with local officials from the Coast Guard on Sunday to report the Friday morning assault.
Khoi said his boat and 13 crews were fishing in their usual spots off the Hoang Sa (Paracel) Islands when a Chinese boat began chasing them.
He said that the pursuing vessel dispatched two speedboats with 17 people aboard armed with axes and batons to board his boat.
“They beat us with the batons. I almost passed out,” news website VnExpress quoted Khoi as saying.
He said the pirates smashed the cabin windows, destroyed three bamboo coracles and diving tubes, and stole: a GPS, two radios, two fish detectors, 3,000 liters of diesel, five propane tanks and four tons of tuna they'd stockpiled starting on July 22.
Khoi estimated the material damage to be nearly VND600 million (US$28,320).
“After nearly one month fishing, we’ve come back empty-handed and in debt,” he said.
The damaged boat only reached Ly Son on Saturday night.
That previous evening, Captain Tran Hien, 35, had limped back to Ly Son in a boat allegedly ravaged by a Chinese mob off the coast of the Paracels.
Hien said the material damage totaled around VND265 million ($12,500) including all his equipment and three tons of fish.
Quang Ngai fisherman Le Khoi puts a finger through a window allegedly broken by a group of Chinese pirates on August 15, 2014. Photo: V.Minh/VnExpress
Nguyen Quoc Chinh, chairman of the An Hai Commune Fishermen's Society, told VnExpress that Khoi’s boat returned to shore “ragged.”
“We’ve reported the incident to district and provincial agencies so they will denounce China’s wild acts and take measures to protect local fishermen,” Chinh said.
Colonel Ngo Ngoc Thu, deputy commander of Vietnam's Coast Guard, said he has been informed and his unit is investigating the situation further.
Pham Truong Tho, vice chairman of Quang Ngai, said last month that China had illegally stopped, chased and damaged at least 27 fishing boats from the province this year.
Tho said half of the attacks took place after China deployed a US$1-billion oil rig into Vietnamese waters on May 2. The rig was removed in mid-July.
Fishing provides a livelihood to the crews and owners of the province's 5,459 fishing boats.
The fleet is wooden and vulnerable to these sorts of attacks, Tho said.
Early this month, Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung promised to spend VND4.5 trillion ($211.5 million) to help Vietnamese fishermen build stronger boats in the face of rising tensions with China.