Kuala Lumpur - Indonesia's Government has condemned the alleged abuse of Indonesian fishermen aboard a Chinese fishing vessel, after footage of a body bag being thrown overboard caused widespread outrage in the South-East Asian country.
"We condemn the inhuman treatment against our crew members working at the Chinese fishing company," said Indonesia's Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi in a video conference, stating that 49 fishermen aboard the "Long Xing 629" were forced to work 18-hour days in poor conditions.Indonesia previously summoned the Chinese ambassador over the matter and Ms Marsudi has called for Chinese authorities to conduct an investigation into the company that operates the vessel. Footage first aired by South Korean broadcaster MBC News last week, which provoked anger and calls for action from the Indonesian public, showed crew members of the Long Xing 629 disposing of an orange body bag overboard. At least three Indonesian crew were reported to have died. The footage appears to depict Chinese crew members burning incense and pouring alcohol as part of burial rites, before pushing the body into the ocean. The nature of the sea burial outraged many in Muslim-majority Indonesia. Islam dictates strict burial practices, whereby a body should be bathed and buried along with special prayers. Alcohol is generally avoided by practicing Muslims. Ms Marsudi said that "China's Foreign Affairs Ministry has responded to our inquiry [about the sea burials] and said they were conducted in line with the maritime code and International Labour Organization's rules." "They threw the body straight overboard," an Indonesian crew member, whose identity was concealed, told MBC, detailing a range of alleged abuses against the vessel's workers. These included being forced to work 30 hours straight with meal breaks only every six hours, and being reduced to drinking filtered sea water. The parents of Ari, a 25-year-old who died aboard the "Long Xing 629", told Indonesian media they had been unable to speak to their son for months while he was at sea. "He never phoned and we were unable to phone him," Ari's father Juriah told Indonesian newspaper Kompas. "We are not happy. We ask for his case to be investigated." The Indonesian Embassy in Seoul said last week it had repatriated 14 Indonesian crew members from the "Long Xing 629".
Lawyers for the fishers said the men had received less than $US300 for a full year's work as opposed to the $US300 they were supposed to be paid monthly under their employment contracts.