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Indonesia sinks 41 illegal fishing boats, including one from China

JAKARTA — Indonesia yesterday sank a large Chinese vessel as well as 40 other foreign boats that had been caught fishing illegally in the country’s waters, a move likely to spark a strong reaction from Beijing and other regional capitals.

Indonesia sinks 41 illegal fishing boats, including one from China

The Indonesian Navy destroys foreign fishing vessels caught fishing illegally in waters near North Sulawesi yesterday. Photo: REUTERS

JAKARTA — Indonesia yesterday sank a large Chinese vessel as well as 40 other foreign boats that had been caught fishing illegally in the country’s waters, a move likely to spark a strong reaction from Beijing and other regional capitals.

The 300 gross tonne Chinese vessel was destroyed with a low-explosive device on its hull in West Kalimantan, said Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Minister Susi Pudjiastuti.

“This is not a show of force. This is just merely (us) enforcing our laws,” Ms Susi was quoted as saying by The Jakarta Post.

The Gui Xei Yu 12661 is the first Chinese boat to be sunk since Indonesian President Joko Widodo declared war on illegal foreign fishing boats last December.

The Indonesian Navy detained Gui Xei Yu in 2009 after it was caught fishing near the South China Sea, a hotly disputed area involving China and South-east Asian nations such as Malaysia and Vietnam.

Besides the Chinese ship, the authorities also destroyed 40 other vessels in different places across the country. They included five boats from Vietnam, two boats from Thailand and 11 from the Philippines, The Post reported.

Shortly after assuming office last October, Mr Widodo launched a campaign to protect Indonesia’s maritime resources and domestic fishing industry, which loses billions of dollars in revenues to illegal fishing each year. He has also pledged to transform Indonesia into a maritime power and, in December last year, orchestrated a much-publicised sinking of three empty Vietnamese vessels.

Dozens of foreign vessels from Malaysia, Thailand, Vietnam, Papua New Guinea and the Philippines have been sunk in recent months.

Ms Susi yesterday hailed the latest sinking of the 41 fishing boats, saying it was part of the government’s efforts to protect Indonesia’s maritime resources.

“The action was taken after legal proceedings for the foreign vessels were completed,” she said.

According to Ms Susi, the sinking served as a good lesson in deterring foreign vessels from fishing illegally in the country’s waters. She added that it also served an indirect purpose in improving the welfare of Indonesian fishermen as well as protecting the country’s territorial sovereignty.

Antara News quoted a senior official as saying that the sinking of the ships was held at the same time in several areas across Indonesia, and coordinated by the Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Ministry, the coastal police and the navy.

“This is to revive the National Awakening Day and as symbol of the rise of the world maritime spirit,” said Mr Asep Burhanudin, director-general of resources surveillance at the Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Ministry, who yesterday oversaw the destruction of vessels in North Sulawesi.

May 20 is National Awakening Day in Indonesia and marks the rise of Indonesian unity and nationalism.

Observers expect China to react strongly now that one of its vessels has been sunk. It could potentially lead to a diplomatic spat, which Jakarta has so far largely avoided with Malaysia, Thailand, Vietnam and the Philippines after it destroyed their vessels. AGENCIES

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