Investigators quiz Indonesian fishermen on possible murders

The China Post news staff

TAIPEI, Taiwan — Officials aboard a ship dispatched by the Coast Guard Administration (CGA) have began an investigation into the disappearance and possible murder of the captain and chief engineer of a Taiwanese fishing boat. The two Taiwanese were allegedly killed in the East Pacific Ocean last month by the nine Indonesian crew members working on the same vessel. Officials said yesterday that the Teh Hung Hsing No. 368 fishing boat, registered at Yilan County’s Suao Harbor, has been being towed back to Taiwan by the CGA’s Shun Hu No. 7 since July 27.

The fishing vessel is expected to arrive back at its home port on Aug. 19, ahead of the original estimated arrival date of Aug. 21. The officials confirmed that the Shun Hu No. 8, carrying four criminal investigators and two interpreters, joined the Shun Hu No. 7 in waters off Palau Island yesterday morning. None of the nine Indonesian crew members aboard the fishing boat have communicated openly with the officials on the Shun Hu No. 7, citing a language barrier. The Coast Guard hopes the investigators on the second CGA ship will be able to achieve a breakthrough in the bid to find out what happened to captain Chen Teh-sheng and chief engineer Ho Chang-lin. The fishing boat’s owner, Chuang Ching-wan, reported that the vessel left Suao in January to fish in the East Pacific. But he lost contact with the boat on July 16. Family members of the missing fear that the two have been killed and their bodies dumped into the sea. They have revealed that there were quarrels between the skipper and some of the Indonesian sailors.

The Shun Hu No. 7 intercepted the fishing boat near French Polynesia on July 27, but officials could not find Chen or Ho.

They subsequently placed the Indonesian crew members, who refused to reveal any information about what had happened, in detention and started towing the ship back to Suao.

To speed up the probe, the government on Aug. 5 sent the second CGA ship with investigators and interpreters from the National Immigration Agency aboard. CGA officials declined to reveal the progress of the probe so far, but they said that the towing operation to bring the Teh Hung Hsing No. 368 back home is proceeding smoothly. They estimated that the fishing vessel will reach Suao before noon on Aug. 19.