The government has denied allegations of human rights violations against the crew of a tanker which left Cambodian waters with a cargo of oil. It said the vessel’s master had already been jailed by Indonesian authorities and it wanted the crew extradited to face charges in Cambodia.
The Ministry of Mines and Energy confirmed that the crew of the MT Strovolos was arrested by Indonesian authorities after an Interpol red notice was issued in respect of Cambodian criminal charges. Cambodia alleged “the theft of the full cargo of crude oil on board the vessel of some 295,000 bbls [barrels] belonging to the Kingdom of Cambodia,” worth more than $22 million.
The Ministry said Indonesia had already completed proceedings against the crew for breaching local law, resulting in a prison sentence and fine for the vessel’s master. It said the further arrest of the crew on Cambodian charges illustrated strengthening ties between ASEAN members. It thanked the Indonesian government for its assistance.
“The crude oil has at all relevant times been the property of the Kingdom of Cambodia,” the ministry said in a statement. “The theft and/or misappropriation of the crude oil by the owners, managers and the crew of the MT Strovolos and their accomplices constitute criminal acts pursuant to the relevant Cambodian laws,” it said.
The tanker’s owners, World Tankers Management, said on Monday the crew had taken care of the cargo, exceeded their contractual period of employment and were entitled to be repatriated.
“The crew are the innocent victims of wrongful conduct by the government of Cambodia in violation of their human rights,” WTM said.
The Energy Ministry denied the claim, saying: “At all stages, the Royal Government of Cambodia has respected, and will continue to respect, the human rights of the crew. However, always consistent with that, where criminal offences are committed, they should be legally prosecuted. Nothing is unethical about doing so.”
The crew removed the tanker from its moorings near oil platforms in the Apsara oil field after Singapore oil explorer KrisEnergy said it could not pay its debts and was declared insolvent. The government says the Strovolos sailed out of Cambodian waters without obtaining customs clearance or permission from the authorities and switched off its automatic identification system for nearly two days until it had left Cambodian waters.
KrisEnergy owned 95 percent of the Apsara oil venture. The remainder belonged to the Cambodian government, which was expecting around $500 million in taxes and royalties over the project’s lifetime.
This article was first published in Khmer Times. All contents and images are copyright to their respective owners and sources.