Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Burmese of Prantalay-12 captured by Somali Pirates

(Some of this post is from Myanmar Times’s article on 11 November 2011.)

Released Burmese Sailors. (Photo Myanmar Times)
Freed 13 Burmese sailors/fishermen working on the Thai PT Interfishery’s fishing boat P.V. Prantalay-12 taken for ransom by Somali Pirates more than a year ago in April last year have been back in Rangoon since First October this year.

“We were forced to stay in pirates’ hands for about one year and three months. Our boat was taken on 18 April 2010 by Somali pirates in the Indian Waters on our way from Ranong in Thailand to Djibouti.

There were 25 Africans in camouflage uniforms on two speed boats when they pointed their heavy-weapons at our boat and stopped us. First we thought they were patrolling soldiers. Only when they were on our boat we knew they were mother-fucking Somalis.

But we couldn’t do anything as they were heavily armed. Three boats from our Company, Boats 11 and 12 and 14, were taken altogether almost at the same time.”

Above was what Pan Aung the leader of the freed sailors said in the interview with Mayanmar Times on Fourth November. He also said there were 20 Burmese and 5 Thais on his Boat-12 and overall 60 Burmese nationals in all three boats captured by the Somalis.

“Out of that 20 Burmese from our boat only 13 of us are able to come back. One was still left in Somalia. One jumped down into sea, while the pirates were not looking, and was rescued by a passing naval boat when our captured boat unexpectedly met that naval boat on the high seas.

Five became really sick and passed away in Somalia because of starvation during our captivity as there was no good food and no good water and we had to survive on whatever little we had been given by mother-fucking Somalis.

Captured Prantalay-14 being used as a Pirate Mothership.
That five had berry-berry and they also had breathing difficulties. The water given to us was salty and smelly, but we had to drink that bad water as there was nothing else to drink. Everybody’s arms and legs were badly swollen as we didn’t even see any vegetable let alone eat them.

We had to eat what they also ate which was basically wheat-dough baked in fire or noddles with tomato sauce. Most days we were fed only once the whole day,” added Pan Aung of their harsh situations back in the captivity.

According to him they will never be able to forget their unbelievable sufferings during the captivity in Somalia.

“Our three captured boats were forced to anchor in Somali Waters since 25 April last year. And they asked our Thai company nine million US Dollars as the ransom. It was too much money for our boss and he’d refused to pay the pirates.

Once whole thing was dragging on for too long the mother-fucking Somalis cut the food and water and we became seriously sick and some died. After 11 months there the Somalis used our boats and went out and captured a small fishing boat from Sri Lanka.

Heavily-armed Somali Pirates.
After that another group of 13 Somalis took that Sri Lanka boat out to attack more boats. Later we were told that boat captured a boat from Bangladesh. There were so many different Somali groups pirating in that area and they didn’t get along that well among themselves too.

And our boat came back to the mooring at the Ka-dar-art Village in Somalia. But the Sri Lanka boat was back at the mooring and the Somalis on that boat wouldn’t let the Somalis on our boat to come beside their boat.

The violent arguments broke out between them and two Somali groups on two different boats ended up shooting at each other and one Somali on our boat was hit. Only then they stopped shooting.

One Somali then took over the steering of our boat and by accidentally shifting wrong gear in he crashed into the captured Bangladeshi boat and split the Bow of our boat. They then anchored our boat near the Dee-nu-dar Village and one day a heavy wind broke the anchor chain and the boat drifted and then hit a rock and sunk.

PT Prantalay-12.
Sinking of our boat caused another angry group of Somalis to start shooting at the Somali group holding us captives. The whole night we had to dig in the sand as the mother-fucking Somalis were shooting at each other.

Only at the morning of next day our guards contacted their main group and then took us 18, 13 Burmese and 5 Thais, in three pick-up trucks to their main camp in the desert. We stayed there only six days as later they moved us to another desert camp.

By then they already knew our boss wouldn’t give then ransom and we also told them we were dead poor from Burma and our families back home didn’t have money too. So the Somalis decided that holding us Burmese any longer was a waste of their time and so contacted the UN and let us go.

But they wouldn’t release 5 Thais among us. After six days in the new desert camp they took them away somewhere. Maybe they thought Thais were rich and still holding them for money expected from their Government or their families. Maybe they were killed as a revenge for our Thai boss for not paying the ransom. We were so lucky to be Burmese from a shit-poor country like our Burma.

PT Prantalay-12.
Two days after Thais were taken away we 14 were forced to walk by 5 Somalis for two days and Somali sons-of-bitches kept us in the brushes near the Ka-dar-kirt Village. We had to stay there for two more days and finally they put us in a pick-up truck and brought us to the Ka-dar-way Town in same bloody Somalia.

Only in August 2011 we met people from UN at the Global Hotel in Ka-dar-way Town and they arranged for us to go home,” said also Pan Aung the leader of the freed Burmese sailors.

For all 13 Burmese fishermen the near-death ordeal they encountered in the hands of ruthless Somali pirates was their very first time being the victims of piracy in their lifetimes.

“Before this Somali experience we had seen robbery only in the movies. The Somalis didn’t really torture us. But they took away every valuable item from us. Whatever they liked they took. They took all our medicines too.

Before we had seen a desert only in the movies. Now we had to live in a desert for many days. Sand storms were blowing all the times and we couldn’t even open our eyes wide. At night to sleep we had to cover our faces. When we woke up our whole bodies were basically covered by sands. It was extremely hot in the desert too,” added Pan Aung.

Somali Pirates in a speed boat.
According to one sailor, because of that year long ordeal in Somalia, now he couldn’t even watch a movie with the robbery theme.

According to the newspapers on November 4 our Foreign Ministry had specially assigned a consular official to bring back the released sailors home and that Burmese official went all the way to Nairobi in Kenya and brought them back home.

“We were brought back in a private-charted plane from Nairobi to Bangkok first and then to Rangoon. At Bangkok the embassy people came and saw us. They also told us that our salaries and compensations were now being arranged with our Thai bosses,” Pan Aung also told us in the interview.

All the released sailors had left Rangoon on Fourth November for their respective home towns or villages.


(Prantalay-11 being used as a pirate mothership was recaptured by the Indian Navy in February this year. 28 Somali pirates and 24 Burmese and Thai hostages were on Prantalay-11 at the time of recapture.)

Prantalay-11 Hostages on the Indian Naval Ship INS Tir.
(Ten days before Prantalay-14 also being used as a pirate mothership was also recaptured by the Indian Navy. There were 20 hostages, 16 Burmese and 4 Thais, and 15 Somali pirates on the Prantalay-14 at the time of recapture.)

Hostages from Prantalay-14 at a Mumbai Police Station.
(Following is the rather sad story of earlier-rescued Burmese sailor named Aung Soe, from same Prantalay-12 fishing boat, who has refused to come back to Burma and now stuck in an Indian police cell in Kochi as a stateless person in LIMBO.)

KOCHI, INDIA: The State Home Department is in a fix over the deportation of a foreign national, rescued by the Navy from Somali pirates, after he turned out to be a citizen of no nations. Aung Soe, a 29-year-old fisherman, believed to be a Thai national when rescued, has been confined within the four walls of Ernakulam Harbour Police station for the past nine months.

Being alone in a country without knowing the language, it is like being in a no-man’s land, says Soe. Rescued from the Somalian pirates, while he was on board Prantalay 12, a Thai fishing trawler, Soe was taken to Harbour police station by the Naval personnel on December 8, 2010. “During fishing we came close to Somali pirates in April last year. Prantalay was under their control from then and we travelled a lot. We went up to Sri Lanka. “Last December, I was rescued by the Navy. Since then, I’m here,” said Soe in broken English. He was rescued by the Navy, off Kalpeni island of the Lakshadweep.

He feels an innate urge to be among his own people at times, says Soe. “I wish to go back; to be among my people in Thailand – to where I ran away in 1991 from Burma, after the Burmese Army killed my parents and siblings in 1985. I don’t have a passport or other documents as I was not given Thai citizenship. I used to go to the police station once in seven days,” Soe says.

His issue has come up before the authorities many a time, but even they are helpless. Though the officials from the Human Rights Commission and other authorities visited the station to assess the situation, no solution has been made till now. It is the absence of citizenship that makes his deportation a difficult task for the Home Department. “We have been in the process of deporting him to whichever country he belongs to. So far nothing has materialised,” said Kochi Police Commissioner M R Ajith Kumar.

Since he migrated to Thailand at the age of four, he does not have any document to prove his nationality. Back home also, he does not have anyone to claim him. Till recently Soe was sitting inside the police station, sometimes a bit depressed. Now, he has started going out. Yet it is evident that he misses his own people. Signing off, he asks, “Sir, Can I ever go back?”