Pacific News Minute: Indonesian Patrol Boat Allegedly Rammed By Vietnamese Vessel in S. China Sea

Apr 30, 2019

Damen 9014 class OPV under fitting near Danang City
Credit Hoàng Quang Hải / CC BY-SA 4.0 / Wikimedia Commons

Indonesia’s Navy reports that one of its patrol boats was rammed by a Vietnamese coast guard vessel in the South China Sea. The incident stemmed from a dispute over fishing rights.

News from the South China Sea usually involves the geopolitical dispute between the United States and China, or reports of China bullying its smaller neighbors, but those neighbors have overlapping claims, too, which can lead to disputes.

This incident happened in the southwestern reaches of the South China Sea, an area Indonesia renamed the Natuna Sea two years ago to reinforce its claim to a vast exclusive economic zone around the Natuna Islands. China claims those waters, too, and so does Vietnam.

In recent years, Indonesian patrols have captured and burned hundreds of fishing boats from Vietnam, the Philippines, China and other countries which Jakarta said had dropped their nets in Indonesian waters. That’s not just a matter of sovereignty; Indonesia claims illegal fishing costs it billions of dollars every year.

On Saturday, an Indonesian patrol boat intercepted a Vietnamese fishing boat, when two Vietnamese coast guard vessels intervened. A video released by the Indonesian navy appears to show one of them ramming into the Indonesian vessel. According to the Associated Press, Indonesian sailors can be heard shouting insults, like, “pig,” “dog” and “you die.”

In the process, the fishing boat sank. It’s not exactly clear how. Two members of the crew jumped into the water to be rescued by one of the Vietnamese vessels, twelve others were taken into custody by Indonesia.