Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Peace not on horizon in Asean’s fishing wars

Peace not on horizon in Asean’s fishing wars

Content image - Phnom Penh Post
Indonesian authorities sink a Vietnamese fishing boat at Datuk island, in West Kalimantan, on Saturday. LOUIS ANDERSON/AFP

Peace not on horizon in Asean’s fishing wars

Indonesia’s decision to sink a dozen fishing boats on Saturday is a reminder for Asean that illegal fishing is a serious region problem that requires concrete solutions, not more meetings and lip service.

Theft from the South China Sea and our region’s other waters is nothing new.

Asean members have long been at loggerheads over illegal fishing in their special economic zones or territorial waters.

Thailand has faced repeated incursions from Vietnamese trawlers in the Gulf of Thailand, while Thai crews are frequently caught fishing illicitly in Indonesian waters.

Startled neighbours

In the latest incident, Indonesia has accused Vietnam’s coastguard of endangering a crew’s life by ramming one of its naval boats.

Jakarta summoned the Vietnamese envoy and warned him that the aggressive action violated the spirit of international law and Asean friendship.

Indonesia has long borne the brunt of this regional problem thanks to its rich marine resources spread over a huge territory which is difficult to police.

The sore point is that foreign boats either fishing illegally or exceeding their permitted quotas.

Jakarta has decided on the drastic deterrent of sinking any boats found trawling its seas illegally.

More than 50 trawlers, mostly from Vietnam and Malaysia, are scheduled to be scuttled in Indonesian waters over the next fortnight.

Authorities say the action is necessary to warn neighbouring countries that Jakarta is serious about fighting illegal fishing that causes serious economic losses.

The stiff penalty has, however, startled Asean neighbours.

Since President Joko Widodo took office in 2014, hundreds of captured foreign fishing vessels have been sunk – more than half of them from Vietnam.

Yellow card

The practice was suspended for several months before being resumed last week after the Vietnamese coastguard boat rammed an Indonesian naval vessel that was attempting to seize an illegal trawler.

A dozen fishermen were detained and remain in Indonesian custody.

Illegal fishing previously came under Asean’s radar for attracting sanctions from the EU, a major market for the region’s seafood.

Asean members declared a joint “war” on illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing in 2016 after many countries in the region received a “yellow card” warning from the EU.

Bangkok was hit with the warning in 2015 and took nearly four years to improve conditions in the sector before finally earning an upgrade in January.

Vietnam was the latest to get an EU yellow card, in October 2017, and that ongoing status is causing anxiety in a country heavily dependent on its seafood exports.

Thailand, as this year’s chair of Asean, is now at the forefront of efforts to combat illegal fishing in the region, last month hosting an Asean-EU meeting on combating IUU fishing.

The meeting concluded with plans to establish a taskforce where member countries can share information, coordinate law enforcement and draw up measures for sustainable fishing in the region.

This Asean agreement is unlikely, however, to be tough enough to satisfy Indonesia, which is bearing the economic brunt of the problem.

The group needs a new and effective concrete solution that ensures all members enjoy peaceful and fair division of Asean’s fishery resources. The Nation (THAILAND)/Asia News Network


  • School reopening to be postponed until November

    Minister of Education Hang Chuon Naron on Tuesday wrote to Prime Minister Hun Sen requesting a delay of school reopening across the Kingdom until November, when the new academic year begins. In his letter, Chuon Naron said the postponement is warranted to avoid the new

  • Foreigners in Kingdom must now register in FPCS system

    The Ministry of Interior’s General Department of Immigration (GDI) announced that it would not grant visa extensions to foreigners staying in Cambodia if their names are not listed on the Foreigners Present in Cambodia System (FPCS) by July 1. Foreign nationals can register in the

  • Covid-19 at ‘alarming rate’, health ministry says

    The Covid-19 risk level for individual transmission is at an “alarming rate” in the Kingdom and its probability is “not low”, warned Health Ministry spokesperson Or Vandine. “Cambodia’s coronavirus scenario is classified as being at an early stage of the pandemic because of ongoing

  • Mandatory quarantine for 30,000 workers begins

    Some of the roughly 30,000 workers from factories and enterprises across the Kingdom who went on leave during Khmer New Year began their government-imposed 14-day quarantine on Monday. Speaking at a press conference while visiting workers at the Phnom Penh Special Economic Zone on Monday, Ministry

  • Unemployed to get $40 per month

    The Ministry of Labour and Vocational Training has instructed enterprises, business owners and travel agencies in five provinces to prepare the proper forms for the suspension of employment contracts. This, it said, will make it easier for the ministry to transfer $40 a month to workers

  • Gov’t travel ban flouted

    While the majority of Cambodians have paid heed to Prime Minister Hun Sen’s order to stay put and not travel during the Khmer New Year – the holidays of which were also postponed – several hundred have left Phnom Penh nonetheless. They have allegedly breached provincial

  • G20 energy ministers struggle to finalise oil output cuts

    Top oil producers struggled to finalise production cuts during a virtual summit held by Group of 20 (G20) energy ministers on Friday, despite US President Donald Trump’s mediation efforts to end a standoff with Mexico. The final G20 communique appeared to gloss over simmering divisions

  • Kingdom revises travel restriction order

    The government on Friday eased the district and provincial border restrictions issued on Thursday. People are now allowed to cross districts within their provinces. Phnom Penh and Kandal province are to be treated as a single region where people are allowed to travel freely. In

  • Private schools struggling

    The Cambodian Higher Education Association has claimed that 113 private educational establishments are facing bankruptcy because of their inability to pay rent and staff salaries in light of nationwide school closures caused by the Covid-19 outbreak. It said the financial trouble started when the Ministry of

  • Khmer New Year holidays postponed

    In an effort to halt Covid-19 infections in the Kingdom, Prime Minister Hun Sen has postponed the Khmer New Year holidays scheduled from April 13 to 16. While the people will not have their usual break, nor will there be any public celebrations or gatherings at pagodas,