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International relations

Indonesia asks why Chinese fishing ship dumped sailors in sea

Remains cast overboard in keeping with international rules, captain says

A Chinese fishing vessel in the South China Sea.   © Reuters

JAKARTA -- Indonesia on Thursday demanded an explanation from China over sea burials of Indonesian crew members on Chinese fishing vessels, amid reports of mistreatment.

A total of three Indonesian sailors died while the ships were in the Pacific, two in December and one in March, and their bodies were cast overboard, according to a statement from Indonesia's foreign ministry. Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi summoned the Chinese ambassador to express Jakarta's concern.

The captain of the fleet said the sailors had to be buried at sea because they died from an infectious disease, and that the process followed international maritime rules.

The incident came to light after South Korean media reported that Indonesian crew members on the ships said they had been forced to work under harsh conditions.

Indonesian Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi, center, demanded that China look into the deaths of Indonesian fishermen. (Photo courtesy of Indonesia's foreign ministry)

The two vessels initially had more than 40 Indonesian crew members. Some disembarked when the ships docked at the South Korean port of Busan in late April, at which point the problem was discovered. One sailor died of pneumonia in a Busan hospital on April 27.

The vessels have reportedly resumed operating with about 20 Indonesian crew members. The rest are being repatriated, according to the foreign ministry.

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