The Jakarta Post
More than a dozen Acehnese fishermen have returned home after being detained for almost three months in Myanmar over allegations of illegal poaching, the Foreign Ministry has announced.
Ministry officials completed the repatriation of 14 fishermen who worked on the Bintang Jasa fishing vessel and handed them over to acting Aceh governor Nova Iriansyah on Wednesday.
They were held for two months and 17 days in Kawthaung township, on the southernmost tip of Myanmar just off the Andaman Sea, after being accused of illegally fishing in the country's waters, Indonesian Ambassador to Myanmar Iza Fadri said.
A team from the embassy in Yangon, which is a 38-hour drive from Kawthaung, managed to secure the release of the fishermen last Thursday, owing to its lobbying of local authorities, the envoy said.
"We tried to convince Myanmar authorities that these violations were not intentional but rather due to a lack of a navigation system,” he said in a statement. "In the future we urge large size fishing vessels to equip themselves with adequate navigation equipment so that similar incidents do not occur again.”
The Bintang Jasa departed from Aceh on Oct. 31 and a week later the vessel and its 16 crew members were arrested by Myanmar's navy for allegedly entering its waters illegally and fishing there. During the arrest, one of the crew members plunged into the sea in a panic and was later found dead. He was later buried in Kawthaung.
Meanwhile, the ship's captain, whose name was not released by the ministry, is still in Myanmar and must go through the necessary legal processes. The Indonesian Embassy in Yangon said it would continue to provide assistance for the upcoming trial, which is expected to begin in February.