TAIPEI, Taiwan - Taiwan Coast Guards have intercepted a fishing boat in the East Pacific Ocean and arrested nine Indonesian crew members suspected of killing their Taiwanese captain and engineer, officials said yesterday.
After a five-day chase, Coast Guard Administration (CGA) officers boarded the Suao, Yilan County-registered Teh Hung Hsing No. 368 and arrested the nine Indonesian crew members. However, the captain, Chen Teh-sheng, and engineer, Ho Chang-lin, were missing, the CGA officials said.
It is feared that both have been killed and their bodies dumped into the sea, the officials said, adding that those arrested have denied doing so.
The captain's family has accused the government of reacting too slowly.
According to the CGA, the Suao fishery association reported to the Coast Guard on July 18 that it had lost contact with the Teh Hung Hsing No. 368, which was at the time operating south of the Hawaii islands.
Despite the loss of radio contact, global position system (GPS) signals showed that the vessel, which was supposed to be carrying the two Taiwanese and the nine Indonesians, was sailing toward Indonesia.
The CGA on July 23 dispatched its Shun Hu No. 7 to a rescue mission from Fuji, where the Coast Guard vessel had been making a port call.
The Shun Hun No. 7 managed to intercept the Teh Hung Hsing No. 368 at seas 623 nautical miles southwest of Kiribati (almost 11,000 kilometers southeast of Taiwan's Oluanpi, Pingtung County) at about 4:30 a.m. yesterday after a 2,000-nautical mile chase.
The fishing boat and suspects are now on their way to Taiwan under the escort of the Coast Guard vessel, and they are expected to arrive on Aug. 20, the CGA said.
But Chen's family said the government should have asked for help from the US Navy, which was conducting a drill in nearby waters and could have intercepted the fishing boat much sooner.
The government should not have dispatched the Shun Hu No. 7 from a remote port, the family said.
The family urged the government to step up efforts monitoring the hiring and training of Indonesian fishermen. It also demanded that the suspected killers be heavily punished.
Chen's daughter, Chi-ting, said the captain had often called home and complained about four of the newly recruited crew members after setting sail early this year.
She cited her father as saying that he sometimes had quarrels with those crew members, and she suspected that such quarrels had led to the killings.
The Central News Agency quoted an Indonesian fishing official as expressing regret over the incident.