Thailand Arrests 40 Indonesian Traditional Fishermen

Indonesian traditional fishermen hauling their daily catch.
Indonesian traditional fishermen hauling their daily catch. (Iyosswazzo/WikimediaCommons)

Once again, Thai authorities jailed 40 Indonesian traditional fishermen from East Aceh District when they entered Thai sovereign waters to fish, according to Panglima Laot Aceh.

Panglima Laot is an Acehnese language, which means sea commander. He is a tribal leader in the fishing community in Indonesia’s Aceh province. As the chief, he is responsible for organising Hukôm Adat La’ôt or customary maritime law.

Indonesian Traditional Fishermen Arrested for Trespassing

The Indonesian traditional fishermen sailed from Idi Port in East Aceh onboard three vessels. They were arrested on Sunday evening while fishing illegally in Thai waters.

According to the Aceh Province’s traditional fishing community chief, Miftach Tjut Adek, 16 of the 40 fishermen belong to the 24 GT fishing boat MV Iklas Baru. Thai authorities stopped the fishermen’s vessels at about 75.8 nautical miles from Phuket Island.

The other 24 fishermen belong to belong to MV Rahmad Jaya (29 GT) and MV Kambia Star (25 GT). They were brought to the Prom Lam Thep Chelong Police precinct. Panglima Laot Aceh reported the incident to the Aceh administration. Their identities would be announced immediately.

This isn’t the first time Thai authorities arrested foreign fishermen entering the country’s waters.

In the early 2020s, Thai police jailed 30 Acehnese fishermen and three children after seeing them poaching in Thai waters. In February 2020, at least 21 fishermen and three children were also caught poaching in the country’s waters. On July 16, 2020,  the six children were sent home to Indonesia.

In October 2020, the Indonesian Traditional Fishermen Association (KNTI) verified that 51 Acehnese fishermen returned to Indonesia. Thailand’s King Maha Vajiralongkorn granted them a royal pardon on his birthday on July 28, 2020. They received the pardon with the help of the Indonesian Foreign Ministry through the Indonesian Consulate General in Songkla.

On April 9, 2021, Thai authorities imprisoned 34 Acehnese fishermen for poaching. The Royal Thai naval vessel intercepted their fishing boats as the fishermen returned to East Aceh District via Thailand’s sea route after fishing.