Mon, Oct 24, 2016 - Page 1 News List

MOFA calls for swift return of hostage

By Stacy Hsu  /  Staff reporter

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) yesterday said that Taipei’s representative office in South Africa has been instructed to secure the swift return of a Taiwanese sailor who has been released by Somalian pirates after being held captive for nearly five years along with 25 other crew from a fishing vessel.

“Although the ministry has yet to learn of the exact time the 26 hostages will arrive in Nairobi, we have instructed the Taipei Liaison Office in the Republic of South Africa to immediately head to Kenya to assist with the Taiwanese sailor’s return,” ministry spokeswoman Eleanor Wang (王珮玲) said.

Wang said that relatives of the Taiwanese sailor, surnamed Shen (沈), are desperate for him to return, adding that the ministry has conveyed their expectations to US-based nongovernmental organization Oceans Beyond Piracy and other concerned individuals, and expressed the hope that Shen will be handed over to the representative office.

Shen was the chief engineer on the fishing vessel Naham 3 when it was hijacked by Somalian pirates in the Indian Ocean on March 26, 2012.

According to the ministry, at the time of the ship’s seizure, there were 29 crew members, two of whom are Taiwanese including Shen and the vessel’s captain.

The other crew members included 10 Chinese, three Vietnamese, five Indonesians, five Filipinos and four Cambodians.

The Taiwanese captain was murdered by the pirates two days afterward, while a Chinese and an Indonesian succumbed to illness during the course of their confinement, the ministry said.

The crew members were reportedly released on Saturday after a ransom was paid, ending their 1,672 days in captivity.

Wang said the ministry immediately sought assistance from local and international agencies after learning of the ship’s capture, and has maintained contact with prominent international anti-piracy organizations — including Oceans Beyond Piracy and the Malaysia-based Piracy Reporting Centre — since 2012.

As to whether Taiwan contributed toward the ransom, Wang said that in similar cases in recent years, ransoms were usually paid by insurance companies if the captured ships had piracy insurance.

“Most concerned governments chose not to interfere to prevent pirates from demanding an exorbitant ransom,” Wang said, adding that to the ministry’s knowledge, the money paid to secure the Asian sailors’ release was partly provided by the ship’s owner, with the rest coming from international donors.

Later yesterday, Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Central Policy Committee director Alex Tsai (蔡正元), who said he assisted with the release of the crew, told reporters that Shen was on his way home and was expected to make a transit stop in Guangzhou, China, before returning to Taiwan.

When reached for confirmation of Tsai’s remarks, Wang said that further information would be released as it becomes available.

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