Chinese coast guard 'prevented Indonesia from detaining boat'

Indonesian Minister Susi Pudjiastuti
Indonesian Minister Susi Pudjiastuti PHOTO: REUTERS

Indonesian minister accuses Chinese vessel of trespassing and trying to destroy evidence

Indonesia has accused China's coast guard of playing a dangerous game of cat and mouse with one of its patrol boats in the South China Sea at the weekend.

The Indonesian government says a Chinese coast guard vessel tried to forcibly prevent the detention of a Chinese fishing boat that was seized earlier by the Indonesian authorities near the Natunas for operating illegally in Indonesian waters.

The incident began at 2.14pm on Saturday, when the Chinese- flagged Kway Fey was detected by Indonesia's Hiu 11 patrol boat in the waters of the country's exclusive economic zone.

 
 
 

The Kway Fey defied an order by the patrol boat to stop despite warning shots fired at it, said officials from Indonesia's Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Ministry yesterday.

It continued trying to evade the Indonesian authorities by "zig-zagging" across the waters near the Natuna Islands, but the Hiu 11 managed to stop the Kway Fey after an extended pursuit.

At 3pm, three officers from the ministry's task force boarded the Chinese fishing boat and arrested its eight crew members.

The Kway Fey was being towed by the Hiu 11 to a nearby base when the Chinese coast guard vessel appeared on its tail.

The Hiu 11 tried to hail the Chinese vessel by radio and light signals, but it did not respond.

SETBACK TO PEACE EFFORTS

Indonesia has for years been pursuing and promoting peace in the South China Sea.

With yesterday's incident, we feel interrupted and sabotaged in our efforts.

INDONESIAN MINISTER SUSI PUDJIASTUTI 

Indonesian officials said it was sailing towards the Hui 11 at a speed of 25 knots, or about 46kmh.

The Chinese coast guard vessel managed to catch up with the Hiu 11 and rammed into the Kway Fey, preventing the Indonesians from detaining the boat.

Indonesian Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Minister Susi Pudjiastuti accused the Chinese coast guard vessel of not only trespassing in Indonesian waters but also trying to destroy evidence of the violation by the fishing boat.

She added that the Hiu 11 did not challenge the Chinese coast guard vessel, which was much larger, to avoid casualties.

"If the Chinese government respects law enforcement and good governance in a country with which they have good bilateral relations, they should let us have that fishing boat back for a due process of the law," she said.

China, however, has maintained in a statement to Reuters that the fishing boat was "in traditional Chinese fishing grounds" before it was "attacked and harassed by an armed Indonesian ship", prompting its coast guard to intervene.

Ms Susi, however, disagrees.

"They claimed it's within a traditional fishing zone, but we don't have that.

"What we do have are international fishing rights, and we only have this with Malaysia," she added.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 22, 2016, with the headline 'Chinese coast guard 'prevented Indonesia from detaining boat''. Print Edition | Subscribe