China has opened fire in recent encounters with Vietnamese fishing boats that were fishing in Vietnam's territorial waters, fishermen operating off central provinces told Thanh Nien via radio Wednesday.
Captain Le Van Giup, 49, said over the past 20 days his boat has fished tuna some five nautical miles from the Da Dong Island (East London Reef), which is part of Vietnam's Truong Sa (Spratly) Archipelago, off Khanh Hoa province.
But recently many Chinese fishing boats have showed up in the waters together with three Chinese navy ships which are numbered 989, 27 and 28, all painted in white and equipped with many weapons, Giup said.
He said the Chinese ships approached his boat, kept disturbing them and firing on the water near them. His boat was forced to run 20 miles away from the island. The Chinese fishing boats, meanwhile, kept staying next to Giup's boat, and "not allowing us to fish," he said.
Nguyen Dung, 40, from Binh Dinh province, also told Thanh Nien via radio that when he was offshore, many of his peers informed one another that a fishing boat from Quang Ngai province was shot when it was moving near the Chu Thap (Cross) Island, also part of Truong Sa.
"Another boat from Binh Dinh was also chased away," Dung said, adding that on his way to Ninh Thuan province from Truong Sa, he saw many Chinese boats operating just over 100 sea miles from the province's coast.
Nguyen Trong Huyen, Chief Commander of Border Guards in Phu Yen Province, said the three Chinese navy ships have so far threatened four fishing boats of the province while they were fishing in the waters of the Da Dong and Chau Vien islands.
The boats couldn't help but leave the waters after the Chinese ships fired, he said, adding that both the islands are under Vietnam's sovereignty, but Chau Vien has been illegally taken up by China.
Huyen said the incidents have been reported to the provincial authorities and the High Command of Border Guard so that they can ask the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to have interfering measures.
"However, to make fishermen continue fishing without worries, we will call for a meeting with security boats which are still in land to inform them of the invasion of foreign navy ships and fishing boats so they can support and protect one another while fishing offshore," he said.
Phu Yen's border guards are frequently in contact with fishermen who are determined to keep fishing, protecting their traditional fishing grounds within Vietnam's territorial waters, Huyen stressed.
In the meantime, authorities in Binh Thuan province have equipped ICOM radio devices on some 1,400 local boats and established eight communication stations which always keep contact with offshore boats.
Huynh Quang Huy, chief of the provincial seafood department, said so far local border guards' command has established over 400 groups of fishing boats to fish together.
Group members are big boats, supporting one another in terms of information, rescues in case of bad weather, and "especially they lean on one another whenever a foreign boat attacks them," Huy stressed.
Nguyen Van Ca, a 47-year-old fisherman from Tuy Phong District, said: "With group members' supports, finally foreign boats had to run away from our waters.
"There's no way we have to be afraid of them when we fish right in our country's waters."