China jails 10 Indons for hijacking Thai ship

BEIJING (AP) - Ten Indonesians convicted of hijacking a Thai ship carrying fuel oil in 1999 have been sentenced to prison terms of 10 to 15 years by a court in southern China, a court official said Tuesday. 

The Indonesians were caught in waters off southern China as they unloaded the vessel's cargo, according to police. The ship was hijacked in Malaysian waters and the 16 crew members set adrift in a small boat. 

The crew was rescued by Malaysian authorities, said the official of the Shantou Intermediate People's Court in Shantou, a city in the southern province of Guangdong. He would give only his surname, Huang. 

The number of cross-border piracy cases handled by Chinese authorities has grown steadily in recent years. Many involve ships carrying cargoes of oil, sugar and other commodities that are seized in Southeast Asia and brought to China for sale. 

Pirates are attracted by China's booming economy. The long Chinese coastline is hard to police, and the country's thriving foreign trade can conceal illicit details.Huang said prosecuting the Thai piracy case involved talks with Thai, Indonesian and Malaysian officials. 

"It took us four years to hand out the sentence because it is a complicated multinational crime,'' he said. "We had to discuss with foreign governments to coordinate different laws of the three countries.'' 

The Indonesian convicts also were fined sums ranging from 10,000 yuan to 30,000 yuan (US$1,200 to US$3,600), he said. 

Huang wouldn't give any other details, but the state-controlled newspaper China Daily said a group of Chinese who bought the fuel oil also are to stand trial. - AP 

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