Thailand's Foreign Ministry on Monday confirmed ten Vietnamese fishermen were being detained under accusations that they entered the country's waters illegally.
The ministry said it will arrange for representatives of the Vietnamese embassy in Thailand to meet and help the fishermen, who are languishing in the jail in Trat Province after they were arrested by a Thai royal navy ship on January 2. The arrest followed a collision between the fishing boat and the ship, the Lao Dong newspaper reported.
There were 11 people aboard the Vietnamese boat, which sank after the collision, and one was rescued by a Vietnamese fishing boat.
The Vietnamese embassy is working with related agencies in Thailand and taking necessary steps to protect the fishermen, all of who are natives of Vietnam's southernmost Ca Mau Province.
On January 11, Vietnam foreign minister Pham Binh Minh raised the matter with his Thai counterpart Surapong Tovichakchaikul on the sidelines of the ASEAN ministerial summit in Cambodia.
The owner of the Vietnamese boat has so far denied Thai's accusations that his boat was intruding Thai waters and tried to hit the royal ship.
Ho Minh Tuan said his boat was on the international sea line and thus did not violate Thailand's sea territory.
"It is unreasonable to say my boat attempted to crash their [royal navy] ship," he said. "Because my boat is made of wood while theirs is made of steel and several times bigger."
This is not the first Vietnamese fishermen being held in Thailand for alleged territorial violations. The Vietnamese embassy in Thailand last year intervened to get more than 400 fishermen released in similar circumstances.
Pham Minh Tuan, First Secretary of the embassy who is in charge of protecting Vietnamese expats in Thailand, said in a Vietnam News Agency report last month that since 2010, more Vietnamese fishermen, most of them from southern region, have illegally entered Cambodian and Thai waters that border Vietnam's.
Tuan said the fishermen know little about water sovereignty and the worsening economic situation is pushing them farther into the sea to try and make a living.
He also said that many Vietnamese fishermen have switched to waters to the south and west of Vietnam as they are afraid of Chinese attacks on the East Sea.
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