Chinese People-Smuggling Ship Traveled Six Days, More Than 2,500 Km: Authorities

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More than a dozen men crouch in the hull of a ship, which was carrying 38 Chinese and Cambodian nationals from China until stopped by authorities off the coast of Preah Sihanouk province, in a photo posted by Cambodia’s National Police on July 26, 2021.

Thirty-six Chinese nationals and two Cambodians have been placed in Covid-19 quarantine after a more than 2,500-km journey over six days by sea from China to Koh Rong Sanloem, where they were arrested for alleged illegal entry to the country, authorities said.

The reason for the trafficking by ship has not been made clear, though authorities said they found only five passports on board.

Keo Vanthorn, Interior Ministry immigration department spokesperson, told VOD on Tuesday that 38 arrested individuals had been placed in quarantine. The suspects “have not yet been handed to the general immigration department,” he said.

Touch Pallak, director of the Interior Ministry’s Maritime Border Police department, said in a National Police statement on Monday that the ship, named Tong Hai, is believed to have left the port of Fu’an in China’s Fujian province on July 18 with all 38 passengers on board. Fu’an is more than 2,500 km from Sihanoukville in a direct line, and closer to 3,000 km by water.

After officers raided the ship near Koh Rong Sanloem island on July 24, 38 people were arrested, including one female, while five passports, three Seaman Books recording a seafarers’ careers, one ship certificate, six mobile phones and a GPS device were confiscated, Pallak said in the statement.

A Preah Sihanouk provincial prosecutor participated in the action, and the ship’s passengers have been interrogated, Pallak said. The ship was being kept at a Maritime Border Police facility, he added.

Koh Rong district police chief Heng Kim An would not say whether the ship had docked at Koh Rong Sanloem island, referring questions to the National Committee for Maritime Security.

Tea Sokha, deputy Navy commander and an official in the National Committee for Maritime Security, declined to comment, referring questions to deputy Navy commander Ouk Seyha, who referred questions to police.

According to the National Police statement dated Monday, the raid on the ship was carried out around 9:30 p.m. on Sunday. Photos released by police show the ship flying a Cambodian flag.

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