Cablegate: Vietnam: Pirates in the Gulf of Thailand

This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.





E.O. 12958: N/A
SUBJECT: Vietnam: Pirates in the Gulf of Thailand

1. (SBU) During a courtesy call on the Kien Giang
provincial People's Committee, Ambassador Burghardt asked
Chairman Bui Ngoc Suong and Vice Chairman Van Ha Phong for
their views on reports of increasing maritime piracy in the
Gulf of Thailand and the impact on Vietnamese fishermen.
Noting that the majority of cases involved Cambodian
criminal elements, Chairman Suong indicated that pirates
from Malaysia, Indonesia and Thailand have also been
implicated in attacks on Vietnamese fishermen.

2. (SBU) According to the Chairman, there are no measures
currently in place to effectively control piracy on the Gulf
of Thailand. One important contributing factor has to do
with the lack of a definitive maritime border between
Vietnam and Cambodia. As a result, Vietnamese fishermen
often stray into what Cambodian considers its waters in
search of more profitable catches. These fishermen view the
threat of piracy as a small price to pay, especially since
most acts of piracy consist of holding fishing boats and
their crews hostage while ransom demands are worked out with
the families. While ransom demands might start as high as
15 million VND (USD$1000), they can often be negotiated down
to a more manageable 5 million VND (USD$330). According to
the Chairman, chances for greater enforcement from the
Cambodian side seemed unlikely, as many of the pirates from
across the border appear to be law enforcement officers from
the coast guard, border guard, or fisheries management
agency. Last year, Vietnamese forces arrested one Cambodian
lieutenant and shot another (affiliations unknown) for acts
of piracy.

3. (U) Kien Giang province, located in southwestern
Vietnam, shares a 56-kilometer land border with Cambodia and
a long history of maritime disputes in the Gulf of Thailand.
Problems have likely been exacerbated recently due to
increased fishing as the province seeks to actively develop
its seafood production capabilities. Income generated from
fishing accounts for 30 percent of Kien Giang's seafood
products industry - an industry which generated over 2.5
billion VND ($163 million USD) in revenue last year and
represented 50 percent of all exports from the province.
With Kien Giang alone accounting for 11 percent of Vietnam's
total output in this sector, an increase in the incidents of
maritime piracy may have the potential to threaten more than
just the livelihoods of a few fishermen, but for now
provincial officials seem resigned to accept the status quo.


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