Burma charges detained fishermen

Dec 7, 2009 (AFP), Burma has charged 128 foreign fishermen with violating immigration laws after they were arrested last month for illegal fishing, an official said Sunday.

The group, currently held in Rangoon’s notorious Insein jail, was made up mostly of Indonesians and included 14 Filipinos, one Chinese and four Taiwanese nationals, a senior official of the prison told AFP on condition of anonymity.

"Altogether 128 foreign fishermen, most of them Indonesians, were charged at Insein prison on Friday. They were charged under the immigration act," the official said.

He said seven Burmese fisherman arrested with the group were also charged, but it was not immediately clear what charges they faced.

The foreigners were likely to be deported from the military-ruled country, he added, declining to give further details.

The fishermen were arrested last month from 10 illegal fishing vessels and sent to Insein prison for poaching in Burma’s waters — the country’s largest arrest for illegal fishing in decades, officials said.

A consular team from the Philippine embassy in Rangoon has twice visited the detained Filipinos, the country’s department of foreign affairs said on its website.

It said the fishermen may face prosecution for violation of immigration laws which carries a penalty of imprisonment for up to three months, or payment of a fine not exceeding 200 kyat ($US30.72 officially or $US0.20 unofficially).

Under the law of the sea, a nation has the right to outline an exclusive economic zone stretching up to 200 nautical miles from its shores and claim the right to exploit the resources within that area.

Burma possesses a 2,229 kilometre-long (1,385 miles) coastline along the Bay of Bengal and Andaman Sea.

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