Two Taiwanese fishing boats reported that they were fired upon by what they believed to be an official Indonesian vessel while in the Strait of Malacca early yesterday.
The owner of the Sheng Te Tsai, registered in Pingtung County’s Liouciou Township (琉球), surnamed Lee, said he received a satellite telephone call from the skipper, Lin Nan-yang, shortly after 5am to say that his ship and the Lien I Hsing No. 116 were being shot at.
In one of the messages sent from the ships, crew members said they believed the vessel belonged to the Indonesian military, because they saw “2804” on the vessel, which is used for official vessels of the Southeast Asian nation.
The two Taiwanese ships, which were heading to Singapore to offload their catches and stock up on supplies, reported their location at 6 degrees 15 minutes north latitude and 97 degrees 40 minutes east longitude respectively when the shooting took place.
Lin said the 20 crew members of both ships were unharmed, but added that the Sheng Te Tsai had more than 10 bullet holes.
Lin told Lee that the shots were mainly aimed at the cockpits of the two ships, which Lee said was unusual given that warning shots tend to target the back of a vessel or the water around it.
The two fishing boats left Pingtung in late November last year and have been working in the Indian Ocean — they are expected to dock in Singapore later this week.
Liouciou Fishermen’s Association chief executive Tsai Pao-hsing (蔡寶興) said that the route the two vessels took along the center line of the Strait of Malacca is usually safe, although pirate attacks have been reported by fishermen.
Ismail Mae (買睿明), director of the Press Information Division at the Taipei Economic and Trade Office in Indonesia, said in Jakarta that the office would contact the Indonesian government to clarify whether the attack was launched by an official vessel after it gathers more information.
Yunus Ismail, deputy head of the press office at Indonesian Navy Headquarters, said there had been no report by the Indonesian coast guard or navy vessels of chasing Taiwanese fishing boats.
He said the headquarters would check with the naval base on Batam Island to see if any official Indonesian vessels were involved in the shooting.
Fisheries Agency Deputy Director-General Huang Hung-yan (黃鴻燕) said in Taipei that Taiwan does not rule out negotiating a fisheries agreement with Indonesia, similar to those signed with Japan and the Philippines, to better protect Taiwanese fishermen.
Meanwhile, Indonesia said that it “feels sabotaged” in its efforts to maintain peace in the disputed South China Sea.
An incident over the weekend involved an Indonesian patrol boat and a Chinese coast guard vessel and fishing boat, in what Indonesia said was its waters.
Indonesian Marine Affairs and Fisheries Minister Susi Pudjiastuti said: “We may take it to the international tribunal of the law of the sea.”
The Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs said that the fishing boat was operating in “traditional Chinese fishing grounds.”
Indonesian Minister of Foreign Affairs Retno Marsudi said eight detained Chinese fishermen are to be processed in accordance with Indonesian law.
Additional reporting by Reuters
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