Malaysian navy detains 17 Vietnamese relic hunters off Pahang

TANJUNG GELANG - For years, sunken World War II warships have been lying on the seabed off the coast of Tanjung Gelang near Kuantan.

On Thursday, a group of 17 seamen from Vietnam were believed to have tried to dive for the relics onboard such ships when they were stopped and arrested by the Royal Malaysian Navy.

An RMN spokesman said the arrests of the seamen was carried out by KD Perkasa, about 60 nautical miles from Tanjung Gelang at about 6.45am.

KD Perkasa, under the command of Lt-Kdr Mohd Faizzal Mohd Ali, had stopped a diving boat carrying 17 Vietnamese while on their way home from a sea exercise.

"The crew, with exception of the captain, were found with no valid identification documents on them. Several of the crew members were in the midst of diving when the arrest was made.

"They were believed to have been carrying out illegal diving activities," he said.

He added that KD Perkasa also seized a fishing boat which had been modified into a diving boat.

KD Perkasa brought the vessel, its crew and other seized items to the Tanjung Gelang naval base at around 5.30pm to be handed to the eastern region Malaysian Maritime EnforceĀ­ment Agency for further action.

Two British warships - HMS Repulse and HMS Prince of Wales - were sunk in the area on Dec 10, 1941, after the vessels were attacked by Japanese forces during the Second World War.