POST Online Media Lite Edition


Indonesia presses China to answer boat abuse claims

Christian Fernsby |
Indonesia urged China to compel ship owners who employ crew members from Indonesia to fulfill their responsibilities, including payment of unpaid wages.

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Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi on Thursday called Chinese Ambassador to Indonesia Xiao Qian and stressed Indonesian crews who work on ship have not received wages while working in terrible working conditions.

"We asked the Chinese government to assist us in fulfilling rights of Indonesian crews,” said Marsudi.

She also demanded a clarification on alleged slavery and burials of three Indonesian crew members who died on a fishing vessel and were thrown into the sea.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs previously issued a statement on the deaths of three Indonesian crew members who worked on the Long Xin 605 and Tian Yu 8 fishing vessels which was anchored in the South Korea’s port city of Busan a few days ago.

The ships carried 46 Indonesian citizens, 15 of which were from another Chinese-flagged ship, Long Xin 629.

In December 2019 and March 2020, there were three Indonesian crew members who died on the Long Xin 629 and Long Xin while sailing in the Pacific Ocean, according to the ministry.

“The ship's captain explained the decision to thrown the body was taken because they died due to infectious diseases and he had received approval from other crew members,” the statement said.

"The Indonesian government asked for clarification whether the burial at sea for the deceased Indonesian workers had met the International Labour Organization (ILO) Seafarer's Service Regulations," Marsudi added.

Meanwhile, the Chinese ambassador said he would convey Indonesia's request to the Chinese government and ensured that the companies would fulfill responsibilities in accordance with the law.

Indonesia-South Korea Fisheries Workers Union disclosed that eight Indonesian crew members on Long Xin 629 have become the victims of exploitation.

Ari Purboyo, chairman of the Indonesian Fisheries Workers Union in South Korea, said the exploitation have caused the deaths of four crew members.

He said the bodies of three crew members were dumped in the sea at different times and locations between September 2019 and March 2020, while another crew member died in a hospital in South Korea in February.

The remaining 14 members of the crew are currently under required quarantine in Busan, South Korea.

"First he had a leg cramp, then his feet were swollen. Later the illness spread to his chest and he had difficulty breathing," Purboyo told Anadolu Agency about what was experienced by one of the victims.

Based on the results of an investigation conducted by the union, he suspected the four members died because they were forced to drink desalinated sea water while the Chinese crew members drank bottled water.

Purboyo said consuming sea water in the long run is harmful because it is contaminated with salt and other minerals.

“However, we were assured that they died due to sickness, not violence,” he said. The chairman also revealed that each Indonesian was paid about 1.8 million rupiah ($120) for 11 months’ work.

The union demanded all members rights be fulfilled, including unpaid salary and insurance.

Meanwhile, South Korean police said they would comply with an investigation as the case happened within the country’s jurisdiction.

In response, Judha Nugraha, director of citizen protection and legal assistance at the Foreign Affairs Ministry, said the Indonesian Embassy in Seoul coordinated with ship owners and distribution agent of crew members.

The National Police will investigate Trafficking in Persons (TPPO) related to the Indonesian crew on the Long Xin 629.

“We are coordinating with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs regarding further investigations. TPPO criminal task force will conduct an investigation on the case,” said Bareskrim’s general crime unit head, Brig. Gen. Ferdy Sambo.

Police plan to question 14 crew members after they complete a 14-day quarantine. “They were placed under quarantine in accordance with coronavirus procedure and we will question them virtually,” Sambo said.

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