Fishermen impoverished by illegal activities of Chinese ships

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Vietnamese fishermen are still heading to East Sea, saying they have the right to fish in Vietnam's waters.


The family of Tieu Viet La used to be known as one of the richest in Chau Thuan Yen Hamlet in Quang Ngai Province's Binh Son District, thanks to countless offshore fishing trips they had taken for decades.


Now the debt-laden, 50-year-old fisherman could lose his own house that was mortgaged to a bank to secure a VND120 million (US$5,842) loan.


La is among the fishermen in central Vietnam who have been impoverished by illegal detainments and seizures of boats and equipment by Chinese boats which illegally entered and fished in in Vietnamese waters.


He has encountered such incident four times over the past five years.


In 2006, he was taking shelter against an approaching storm near Phu Lam Island when a Chinese boat took all machines, food and fish onboard.


A year later, a Chinese ship shot six fishermen onboard his boat, which was taking storm shelter in Hoang Sa Archipelago. His boat valuing VND300 million ($14,598) was also confiscated.


In 2008, a Chinese boat seized equipment onboard when La was fishing in Vietnamese East Sea.


The last incident happened in March last year when his boat was seized and the crew detained before being released in May.


Since then, the empty-handed man had attempted to work on other boats but later retired due to poor health from being beaten during detainment.


He is living off his wife Nguyen Thi Buoi, a small fish trader at a local market.


"We owe the bank VND120 million. They have recently asked for payment of the loan and interest, or they'll confiscate the mortgaged house. I don't know what to do now," she said.



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Many fishermen like La have become bankrupted due to illegal detainments and seizures by Chinese ships while fishing in the East Sea.


Nguyen Chi Thanh, 27, of Quang Ngai's Ly Son District, said he had borrowed money from relatives to buy an off-shore fishing boat, only to be seized by Chinese ship two years ago.


His neighbor, Mai Phung Luu, and his three sons are working for another boat after Luu also lost several ships to the Chinese.


Meanwhile, other fishermen are still determined to head to the sea, saying Vietnamese fishermen have the right to fish in Vietnam's waters.


Fisherman Ngo Minh Thien of Tam Quan Bac Commune in Binh Dinh Province's Hoai Nhon District said he has never thought of retiring from the job that he has followed over the past 20 years.


"I have just returned from fishing tuna in Truong Sa Archipelago. I will make another trip in the coming days, after repairing the boat," he said. "We should not fear anything when fishing in Vietnamese waters."


Meanwhile, Tran Tot from the same commune is still at sea after his boat heading offshore with eight member crew to fish for tuna in Truong Sa.


"We have caught nearly one ton of tuna. Other boats from Binh Dinh have also had good catch in nearby areas. We are looking for a full load of fish before returning," he told an inland communication station of Binh Dinh Border Guards.


Nguyen Van Ai, 62, of Binh Dinh Province's Phu My District told Thanh Nien that two of his four fishing boats are on the way back carrying their catches.


"After refilling fuel and preparing food, they will head to Truong Sa again," he said.


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