Indonesia’s government on Sunday blasted the allegedly slave-like conditions that its 46 seamen were forced to endure while working on four Chinese-flagged fishing vessels.
“We condemn the inhumane treatment that our crewmen suffered while working onboard Chinese-owned vessels. Based on the information from the crew members, the treatment has violated human rights,” Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi said in a press briefing.
Marsudi said she has met with 14 crew members who arrived in Jakarta over the weekend from Busan, South Korea, where they had disembarked in late April and a crew member had died of pneumonia in a hospital.
She said the 14 crew members told her of abusive working conditions on the vessels and some of them had not received at all their salaries.
“I also found out from them that their working hours were inhumane, more than 18 hours per day,” the foreign minister said.
The incident came to light after one of the crewmen told a South Korean broadcaster of the exploitation that Indonesian fishermen suffered onboard the Chinese vessels.
The unidentified crew member provided the broadcaster with a clip showing a bag containing the body of an Indonesian crew member being thrown overboard for a burial at sea.
Marsudi said three Indonesian crew members had been buried at sea, two were buried in the Pacific Ocean in December 2019 after succumbing to an unspecified infectious disease while another one was buried at sea in March following his family’s consent.
There are still two Indonesian crew members who have gone back to work in one of the vessels that has resumed working and their repatriation is being processed, while 29 others have returned home on April 24 and May 3.
The ministry said their contract stated that should the crew members die at sea, their bodies would be cremated and the company would send the ashes to the crew members’ families in Indonesia.
Marsudi said Indonesia has demanded the Chinese authorities to fully cooperate with their Indonesian counterparts for an investigation of the case.