Three Vietnamese nationals were shot dead by Cambodians over the weekend – two in the course of what Takeo province officials said was a crackdown on illegal fishing, and a third allegedly by a drunken off-duty policeman who had crossed into Vietnam to visit his “second wife”.
Borei Cholsa district Fishery Administration chief Khet Veng said yesterday that the fishermen were shot on Friday during a joint operation between Takeo provincial FA officials and Angkor Borei military personnel. The dead had been among a party of 12 Vietnamese fishing boats discovered illegally fishing on a tributary of the Bassac River, Veng said.
He said the clash began when the Vietnamese fishermen attempted to resist arrest using harpoons and electric-shock fishing equipment, injuring 24-year-old soldier Sin Songly, who was still receiving treatment in the capital as of yesterday evening.
Five members of the Cambodian contingent opened fire with their AK-47s, hitting two Vietnamese, one of whom died that evening in Takeo. A second died in police custody at a Phnom Penh hospital early yesterday morning.
“They were not only crossing the border into Cambodia illegally, they also used their illegal fishing materials to attack our officials,” Veng said. “If we did not fire our weapons to defend ourselves, the five Cambodian soldiers would be shocked and stabbed to death.”
District military commander Em Chammab said Vietnamese fishermen frequently ply their trade illegally in Cambodian waters and have a history of violently resisting authorities.
“It is the first time that the authorities have exercised their right to defend themselves and protect our fishery resources,” Chammab said.
First Secretary to the Vietnamese Embassy Le Anh Thu declined to comment yesterday, directing enquiries to Ambassador Thach Du, who could not be reached for comment.
Meanwhile, in nearby Kiri Vong district, authorities are scrambling to recover Phnom Den deputy commune police chief Lay Bunthy, after he allegedly killed one Vietnamese national and wounded another with his service pistol, having crossed the border into Vietnam illegally.
Yok Sarat, police chief of Kiri Vong district, said Bunthy, who was responsible for the commune’s international checkpoint, was arrested on Saturday night by authorities in Vietnam. While visiting his second wife in the Tin Bieng district of Vietnam’s Arng Yang province, Bunthy reportedly got into a drunken altercation with two locals and opened fire with his K-59 pistol.
Sarat added that the director of the international checkpoint, Sok Samnang, had crossed the border to negotiate for Bunthy’s repatriation, but had yielded no results as of yesterday evening.
“This case is really difficult to negotiate, since the Vietnamese authorities have brought two separate charges against him: bringing a weapon to Vietnam illegally and causing an armed clash leaving one Vietnamese dead and another injured,” Sarat said.