Fishermen from southern Vietnam are to seek legal action against Thailand’s marine police for a recent shooting that killed one and injured two other crew members earlier this month.
Lawyers in Ho Chi Minh City are preparing a lawsuit on the behalf of the injured fishers and the family of Ngo Van Sinh, the pilot who was shot dead on September 11.
Vietnamese fishers said Thai police speedboat chased after them, firing its machine gun for hours at six of their boats at a close distance and only left after Sinh collapsed.
Nguyen Hung Cuong, whose leg was wounded, said the lawyers have agreed to provide all legal support for free.
“We will pursue this case until the end, because they were so brutal. They did not even give us any warning or ask us to stop. They meant to kill us,” said the 41-year-old from Kien Giang Province who is receiving treatment at a hospital in Ho Chi Minh City.
Nguyen Thi Kim Phuong, the wife of the dead pilot, said she and her children are still in shock.
“He was shot so badly I could hardly recognize him.”
His colleagues said that Sinh was shot many times in his face and shoulders.
“I hope the government can help me win some justice,” said the stay-at-home mother, who has planned to find a job to continue raising her two children.
Her eldest son Ngo Duc Minh, 17, said he just wants to drop out of school to help his mother.
“I just could not focus in class. And I just don’t really understand any of this.”
Ha Hai, the lawyer who is heading the case, said his team will identify the location of the shooting first before they decide where to lodge the lawsuit.
If the shooting occurred in Vietnamese waters, police and prosecutors in Kien Giang Province have to open the case, under Vietnamese laws.
If it occurred in Thai’s waters, the lawsuit will follow steps in international marine laws and agreements, Hai said.
“Wherever it occurred, we believe that the fatal shooting was unacceptable.”
The lawyer also criticized Thailand’s police for their failure to take any action to support or console the Vietnamese fishermen.
Thai marine police admitted that their officers shot Vietnamese fishermen, but said they were firing in “self-defense” when surrounded by “hostile Vietnamese vessels.”
Thai police are investigating the shooting after requested by Vietnam’s foreign ministry.
Truong Van Ngu, chairman of the fishers’ association in Kien Giang, said they are going to meet with the Thai consulate in Vietnam and ask Thai marine police to take responsibility for the dead and injured fishers.