Fishers in southern Vietnam said the foreigners who attacked them and shot one pilot dead on Friday appeared to come on a Thai speedboat.
During the attack against six Vietnamese boats in the waters between Vietnam, Malaysia and Thailand, 38-year-old pilot Ngo Van Sinh was shot in the head and died.
Two crew members on two other different boats were shot in the legs.
Pilot Huynh Van Tung said his boat was seized by the group of 10 men.
He said the men on the foreign speedboat, which was around 13 meters long and carrying a Thai flag, fired shots at his boat before they kept him and 19 other crew members hostage and continued the shooting spree at the other five boats nearby.
“They tied our hands and they beat me,” he said.
Tung said he witnessed the entire shooting. The armored boat only ceased fire after several hours.
A fisherman shows a hole in the cabin window of a boat after it was attacked by the gunmen but the pilot survived. Photo: Dinh Tuyen
Just before they stopped, Sinh was hit, Tung said.
“They only left when they saw that Sinh had collapsed and his boat was circling out of control. I was extremely scared,” Tung said.
He said the foreigners then released his boat, after taking all the phones and destroying communication equipment.
Other fishers said some people in the Thai boat seemed to be wearing uniforms.
Chao Van Sang, who was on the boat with the dead pilot Sinh, said Sinh asked others to hide so no one else was injured.
They rushed back to shore and arrived at around 4:30 a.m. the next morning.
Most of the fishers came from Kien Giang Province.
They said they encountered aggressive foreign boats before, but they were only threatened into paying a large sum of money and no one had been harmed until the recent incident.
Sang said some people in the Friday attack were the ones who seized his boat two months ago and demanded VND3.2 billion (US$142,270).
“I could recognize one of the men. He spoke fluent Vietnamese when he demanded money the last time," Sang said.
One coast guard from Kien Giang Province said there were reports about another attack last month in which a member of a fishing crew died after being shot.