Fri, Mar 07, 2003 - Page 2 News List

Fishermen's families ask for help

CNA , TAIPEI

Family members of the crew of the fishing vessel Chun Tai Chun ask for government help in securing the crew's release. The crew was rescued by a Vietnamese vessel and the rescuers are now demanding US$20,000 in exchange for their release.

PHOTO: SEAN CHAO, TAIPEI TIMES

The government should intervene to help five fishermen who were rescued by a Vietnamese fishing boat whose crew is demanding US$20,000 for their release, two lawmakers said yesterday.

KMT Legislator Huang Chien-ting (黃健庭) and DPP Legislator Lu Po-chi (盧博基) called a news conference on behalf of the families of the fishermen during which they said US$20,000 is too much and tantamount to blackmail.

Huang said the Hualien-registered fishing vessel Chun Tai Chun left Chengkung Harbor, Taitung County, on Feb. 21, for the Tungsha (Pratas) Islands. The archipelago is located 444km southwest of Kaohsiung.

The ship experienced mechanical failure and sank after catching fire. Five fishermen, after floating at sea for three days, were rescued by a Vietnamese fishing vessel. The families of the fishermen expressed the hope that the five could return quickly, but received a message from Vietnam that they had to pay US$20,000 to compensate for the cost that the Vietnamese vessel would incur by ending their fishing run early to return the fishermen to harbor.

Huang said that Taiwanese businessmen in Vietnam contacted the Vietnamese military, which told them that the fishermen had already come ashore. The crew of the Vietnamese fishing boat was colluding with the military to extract the US$20,000 from the worried families, Huang said.

Chen Shih-liang (陳士良), deputy director of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs' Department of East Asian and Pacific Affairs said that as far as the ministry was aware, the ship was still at sea, notwithstanding the reports by the businessmen in Vietnam.

The latest news was that the Vietnamese ship had yet to come ashore, and that the captain said that it would return to harbor in 10 to 15 days, Chen said.

Oung Yi-feng (翁毅芳), a counselor from the same department, said that since the Vietnamese vessel was fishing, it could hardly be termed blackmail to ask for compensation to end their trip early for the sake of returning the Taiwanese sailors.

The families of the five fishermen wept at the news conference saying that they couldn't afford to pay such a large sum of money.

Huang said that the government should contact the Vietnamese authorities quickly to help the five fishermen come ashore and that the government's representative office in Vietnam should also lend a hand.

Huang also encouraged the Council of Agriculture to set up a foundation to assist those who have mishaps at sea.

This story has been viewed 2899 times.
TOP top