Fishermen who caught submarine cables in police net

HANOI, June 24, 2007 (AFP) – Vietnam has made two more arrests after fishermen dragged up seafloor fibre-optic cables, threatening to sever the country’s global telecommunication links, a news report said Sunday. Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung has warned that the cable theft “directly affects Vietnam’s socio-economic development, national security and the country’s prestige in the region as well as in the world.” Police on Saturday arrested Nguyen Thi Bich Phuong, the owner of a small fishing fleet, and a second suspect, for “destroying important equipment and means of national security,” the Communist Party’s newspaper Nhan Dan reported.

With the latest arrests in southern Ba Ria Vung Tau province, police are now holding 10 people for salvaging the cables, in the mistaken belief they were old copper lines that could be sold for scrap, the report said.

The trouble started when Ba Ria Vung Tau authorities last year authorised local fishermen to collect disused submarine copper cables which were laid under the US-backed South Vietnam regime before the Vietnam war ended in 1975.

Looking for scrap metal that sells for as little as 40 cents per kilogramme, the fishermen in March instead destroyed active s