Burmese navy captures Taiwanese fishing boats

Nov 24, 2009 (DVB), Scores of fishermen on board four Taiwanese boats captured by the Burmese navy last week are reportedly being held in Rangoon's notorious Insein prison, with Taiwanese embassy staff yet to visit.

The fishing boats had apparently strayed into Burmese waters, demarcated as an Exclusive Economic Zone considered the property of Burma under maritime law.

David Tzou, information director at the Taiwanese embassy in Bangkok, told DVB today that the embassy is waiting on visa applications for two officials to visit the detainees in Insein prison.

"We have to go through the embassy here and we are still waiting to find out if we can go or not," he said. "It's a little difficult."

The four vessels reportedly left Phuket, in western Thailand, on 18 November before being chased by the Burmese navy.

While the four boats are all Taiwanese-owned, the crew members are mixture of Taiwanese, Filipino and Indonesian.

Taiwan's Central News Agency (CNA) yesterday quoted a ministry of foreign affairs spokesperson, James Chang, who said that up to 17 fishing boats from various countries are currently detained by the Burmese junta for intruding on Burmese waters.

Taiwan does not have official diplomatic relations with Burma, which has made it difficult for Taipei to ascertain quite what the fishermen have been detained for.

According to Tzou, however, the men are "safe over there", and the embassy was "trying our best to arrange for relatives to go to Rangoon and see them".

Hundreds of Burmese political prisoners are held in Insein prison, which also became the location of a closed-court trial of Burmese opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi earlier this year.

Reporting by Joseph Allchin

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