Police in Indonesia said Monday they were investigating a report of another death of an Indonesian crew member aboard a Chinese fishing boat, after officials in Jakarta complained to their counterparts in Beijing about the deaths of four others who worked on Chinese boats.
Police were also investigating allegations that the fifth Indonesian sailor, identified as Herdiyanto, had been mistreated while working on the boat, said Ferdy Sambo, director of the general crimes unit at the national police.
A video showing the body of Herdiyanto, who worked on the Luqing Yuan Yu 623 boat, being thrown overboard has circulated on social media while a second video showed him being unable to walk and being assisted by three other people.
“The investigation will be conducted by the Central Java police with the assistance of the National Police Criminal Investigation Task Force,” Ferdy told BenarNews.
Ferdy said Herdiyanto was apparently sent to the boat by a labor recruitment agency based in Tegal, a regency of Central Java province.
Abdi Suhufan, coordinator of Destructive Fishing Watch – Indonesia, a local NGO, said his organization had received the video from a shipmate who said Herdiyanto had died on Jan. 16 and his body was tossed overboard in Somali waters on Jan. 23.
“We urge the foreign ministry to demand ship owners disclose the cause of his death and the reason for the disposal of his remains,” Abdi said, adding that 21 other Indonesians had worked on the ship since November 2019.
Earlier this month, the foreign ministry summoned China’s ambassador to Jakarta over the deaths of four Indonesians and the treatment of others who had allegedly worked in harsh conditions on Chinese boats since last December.
Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi said the four who died had been registered to the Chinese fishing boat Long Xin 629. Two of the crewmen died on the boat in December, while one died in a South Korean hospital on April 27 and the fourth was transferred to another boat and died in March before it could reach port.
Retno’s actions came after a crew member of the fishing boat told South Korean media that he and others were sometimes forced to work 30 straight hours while standing, and given only six hours to eat and sleep before resuming their duties
On Monday, Indonesian police said three people had been identified as suspects in a case linked to those four deaths.
Listyo Sigit Prabowo, head of criminal investigations at the national police, said the three suspects, who police identified only by their initials, were top officials at migrant labor recruitment agencies in West Java and Central Java.
“It was determined that they are suspected in the crime of human trafficking with the intention of exploitation and promises of salaries and work placement,” Listyo told BenarNews.
However, he declined to say whether the three suspects had been arrested.
Meanwhile, Edhy Prabowo, minister of Indonesia’s Maritime Affairs and Fisheries, said the government should consider a moratorium on sending crews to work on foreign fishing boats.
Also on Monday, Chinese officials promised to conduct a thorough investigation into the allegations of mistreatment, the Chinese embassy in Jakarta said in a statement posted on its website.
“This was a tragic incident. The relevant authorities in China will conduct a comprehensive investigation,” the embassy said.