A Myanmar court has sentenced 12 Sri Lankan fishermen to jail terms of three to five years on three charges. The 10-crew members were imposed with a jail term of three years and six months with a fine of 20,000 kyats (Rs 2,800) each, while the fishing trawler drivers were charged with five years and six months jail term, with a fine of 200,000 kyats (Rs 28,300).
The Court charged them for illegal entry into Myanmar waters, illegal fishing (without a fishing licence to fish in Myanmar territorial waters), and for not surrendering to the Navy Commander when spotted in the sea.
However, learns that on 13 March, the Myanmar Court had issued a proposal for the deportation of the fishermen with a fine imposed, but the Government has not made use of the opportunity. The Ambassador posted to Myanmar has sent a Sri Lankan who is working there to resolve the problem, but it has failed, it is alleged.
The fishermen were arrested in February 2021 and were languishing in the detention camp, urging the Government to rescue them. However, Ambassador to Myanmar, Prof. Nalin de Silva had formally requested diplomatic intervention to obtain the release of them amidst the political upheaval in the country. Also, Foreign Affairs Secretary, Admiral Prof. Jayanath Colombage earlier told they were working on negotiating the release of the fishermen.
It seems the delay in settling the matter has resulted in the Court sentencing them to prison.
It is said, the Myanmar Embassy in Sri Lanka has sent a letter to the Ministry of Religion and Cultural Affairs of Myanmar to get them released and the proposal supplement for the repatriation of Sri Lankan fishermen.
While working on the matter, the Ambassador to Myanmar had lamented that he is unable to rescue the fishermen and he failed in his mission. When asked him why he had to post such a note on Facebook, he said it was his personal note.