Two Indonesians held after fatal Malaysia boat accidents

Two Indonesians held after fatal Malaysia boat accidents
A Malaysian search and rescue team helps a rescued victim from a capsized boat in Kelanang Jetty, near Banting after an apparently overloaded boat carrying Indonesian illegal migrants sank in seas off western Malaysia on June 19, 2014.

KUALA LUMPUR - Malaysian authorities said Friday they have arrested two Indonesian men in connection with one of two boat accidents that have left 15 people dead and 27 others still missing.

Eighty-two people have been rescued so far in an ongoing search off western Malaysia after the boats sank in separate incidents early Wednesday.

The boats, both believed to be bound for the neighbouring Indonesian island of Sumatra, were carrying illegal migrant workers heading home for the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan.

Adnan Abdullah, head of criminal investigations in central Selangor state, said police had detained two Indonesians believed to be the shipping agent and coordinator of the boat that sank off Port Klang with 97 people aboard.

He added the duo were being held under the anti-trafficking and smuggling of migrants act, but did not comment further.

The Star daily reported the men, aged 44 and 54, were arrested early Friday at a premise in Port Klang, the country's main port. Both have valid travel documents.

Twelve men and three women have died, while 27 others remain missing.

The second vessel carried 27 passengers and sank slightly south near the district of Sepang. Twenty from that boat have been rescued, while seven are missing.

"The weather is clear. But we have not found anybody today," Zuhri Mat Akhir, a spokesman with the Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency, told AFP.

"We will continue to search," he said, adding boats and helicopters had been dispatched to scour the sea.

Officials believe some of those yet to be accounted for have made it to land nearby and fled to avoid being apprehended by authorities.

Investigations are underway but officials said both boats sank in rough seas and were overloaded - with the first one carrying more than three times its capacity.

Large numbers of Indonesians - many of them illegal migrants - return home annually from Malaysia for Ramadan, which begins next week and ends in late July, culminating in Eid al-Fitr, Islam's biggest festival.

Both Malaysia and Indonesia are Muslim-majority.

Around two million illegal immigrants are estimated to be working in Malaysia, filling mostly low-paying jobs on planations, construction sites, factories and other places.

Indonesians make up the bulk, while the rest are mostly from other poorer regional countries, such as Bangladesh and Myanmar.

Accidents are frequent as thousands brave the sea journey to and from Malaysia in rickety boats, often adding to the risk by travelling at night to avoid detection.

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