Soldiers in Takeo province fatally shot two Vietnamese nationals in self-defense on Thursday after a group of foreign fishermen attacked them with swords and spears, officials said on Sunday.
Two soldiers were patrolling a canal in Borei Cholsar district by motorboat with a fisheries officer on Thursday night when they came upon about 20 Vietnamese fishermen in a dozen boats, said district police chief Khun Phin.
“The Vietnamese were fishing illegally inside Cambodia,” Mr. Phin said. “They were savage because they attacked our authorities with paddles to try to seize their guns. That’s why [the soldiers] opened fire, to try to disperse them.”
He said the fishermen also were armed with swords, spears and electric rods.
“[The soldiers] fired an AK-47 because they tried to kill our authorities, because they knew the authorities would arrest them and put them in prison,” he said. “If we hadn’t opened fire on those Vietnamese people, our authorities would have been killed.”
The soldiers shot one of the fishermen in the leg after the rest of the fishermen fled, leaving behind three of their boats, Mr. Phin said.
The injured man was brought to Preah Kossamak Hospital in Phnom Penh and died of his injuries on Sunday, said Hong Hy, chief clerk for the Agriculture Ministry’s Fisheries Administration.
He said Vietnamese authorities across the border from Takeo sent a report about the clash to local officials on Friday stating that a second Vietnamese fishermen was also shot dead and two others were wounded.
“There were 20 Vietnamese fishermen on the boats, and they surrounded our authorities on their boat and tried to beat them,” Mr. Hy said. “One of the soldiers shot once into the group to disperse them, but they were not scared and moved closer, so the soldier opened fired on the group as they were being chased.”
He said one of the soldiers was hit with a paddle while two civilians on the patrol were shocked with electric rods used for illegal fishing, but none of them were seriously injured. The incident would be dealt with by authorities on both sides of the border, he said.
Takeo provincial governor Lay Vannak declined to comment.
Chhun Sareth, a deputy provincial police chief, said the body of the Vietnamese man who died in Phnom Penh had been handed over to Vietnamese officials at noon on Sunday.
Officials at the Vietnamese Embassy in Phnom Penh could not be reached for comment.