Thai police confirm clash with Vietnamese fishermen

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Thai police confirmed Thursday that one of their patrol boats clashed with Vietnamese fishing vessels last week, an encounter that Hanoi said resulted in one death.

The incident happened Friday near Narathiwat province, around 1,140 kilometres south of Bangkok, Thai maritime police said.

“Preliminary findings suggest that the Vietnamese vessels were encroaching on Thai territory, so we moved in to arrest them,” said Lieutenant Niwat Shanrai, deputy commander of Narathiwat Maritime Police force.

“They behaved in an aggressive manner, so we fired several warning shots.”

According to the Vietnamese government, the skipper of one boat was shot in the head and killed, while two other men were wounded.

The Thai police vessel was “a small craft with only 10 personnel,” while the Vietnamese fishing fleet was comprised of six vessels crewed by 20 men each, Niwat said.

A Vietnamese coast guard investigation said a vessel marked Thai Police 528 approached four Vietnamese fishing boats in the Gulf of Thailand.

The speedboat first hailed them in Vietnamese to “stop or you will be shot dead,” according to survivor accounts in Vietnam’s state-run newspapers.

The fishermen tried to flee but came under fire by assault weapons, the coast guard said.

Much of the Gulf of Thailand is within 200 nautical miles (370 kilometres) of more than one coastline, the conventional range of a country’s exclusive economic zone, leading to overlapping claims between Vietnam, Thailand and Malaysia.

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