Fishermen Find Vietnamese Aboard After Clash

After a predawn clash between Cambodian and Vietnamese fishermen off the coast of Kampot City, the Cambodians returned to land and discovered that one of their rivals was asleep in one of their boats, a community leader claimed.

Neak Sen, who heads the fishing community of Troeuy Koh commune, said that a group of about 100 boats were trawling as normal when they confronted three Vietnamese trawlers that had strayed across a rarely enforced sea border. The community often clashes with Vietnamese vessels at sea, sometimes violently, such as in July when a Cambodian was killed.

“When our boats came close to the Vietnamese boats, we shouted at them to stop but the Vietnamese called to two other trawlers for help,” Mr. Sen said. “Those two boats came with samurai swords so our fishermen turned back and escaped from them.”

Mr. Sen said that in the commotion, one of the Vietnamese fishermen had apparently woken up, jumped into one of the Cambodian boats and fallen back to sleep, and that no one had noticed until returning to land after 3 a.m.

“When we arrived on the mainland, there was a young Vietnamese fisherman sleeping on our boat,” he said. “I think he might have woken up and confused the boats when we and the Vietnamese were shouting at each other.”

Mr. Sen said that the Vietnamese fisherman had been handed over to Kampot City police.

In its report on the incident, Khmer-language service Fresh News cited Kampot provincial police identifying the Vietnamese man as Lieu Vamann, 20, from Kien Giang province, which borders Kampot and includes Phu Quoc island.

The Fresh News version of the story, however, said that the Cambodians boarded the Vietnamese boat and dragged the man onto their vessel, under attack with samurai swords, before speeding away.

Contacted for clarification, acting provincial police chief Hem Chhum said he had not received any such Vietnamese man or any reports of one ending up on a Cambodian boat. Kampot City police chief Ngoem Vath said the same.

Sao Sarin, chief of the Kampot Fisheries Administration cantonment, said he was in Phnom Penh but also had not received any such reports.

Provincial governor Kuoy Khun Hour has said previously that his office had an agreement with the Kien Giang government to “share the water”—superseding the Fisheries Law—and that border-crossing fishermen would simply be educated and sent home.

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