Two Malaysian fishing vessels detained by Indonesian authorities

KLANG (THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - Two Malaysian fishing vessels have been detained by Indonesian fishing authorities, said Sekinchan Fishermen and Fish Traders Welfare Association chairman Chia Tian Hee.

He said that three vessels belonging to association members were fishing 23 nautical miles off Kuala Selangor on Tuesday (July 18) when Indonesian authorities approached them. Kuala Selangor is on the west coast of Peninsular Malaysia.

"Our vessels were still in Malaysian waters because the limit is 28 nautical miles. But they pursued our vessels. The crew tried to turn back to escape, but two vessels were nabbed at 20 nautical miles," he said.

Mr Chia added that one vessel managed to escape and berthed at the Sekinchan jetty at 2.15 pm Thursday (July 20) with its crew of five Myanmar nationals on board.

"They were unharmed but traumatised,'" he said.

Mr Chia said that the association has since lodged reports and alerted all the relevant Malaysian authorities.

"We have no idea where the vessels and crew are being kept now. The majority of local fishermen have been scared to fish in the disputed waters between Malaysia and Indonesia for some time," said Mr Chia.

Meanwhile, the owner of two of the vessels said that his crew told him that the Indonesian authorities fired 10 gunshots at one of his boats.

"One of my vessels and the four Indonesian crew members onboard were held for allegedly fishing in Indonesian waters illegally," said Mr Chia Jui Leng.

He also said that he was worried that the Indonesian authorities might blow up the detained fishing boat, which is worth RM1.5 million (S$478,000).

The incident was confirmed by Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency (MMEA) southern district forensics chief Lieutenant Madya Aieri Nizzam Norizan, following reports received from the fishermen.

"Initial investigation found there were three bullet holes in the vessel's hull," said Lieutenant Madya Aieri, adding that the investigation is still ongoing.