PHNOM PENH, Cambodia — Two Cambodian crew members abandoned their boat with 41 Chinese nationals on board as it sank in the Gulf of Thailand, leaving at least one dead and more than 20 missing, authorities said Friday.
The small wooden fishing boat sank near the Cambodian island of Koh Tang on Thursday morning. Video shot from a lifeboat showed many people on board crammed together at the bow as the stern began to dive underwater.
Rescuers shouted that more help was on the way and threw life jackets and life rings towards the dilapidated boat as it slowly began to list to the right and slide below the surface, sending passengers pour into the water.
Eighteen people were rescued at the time, but 23 others were reported missing. One of them, a man, was found alive on Friday and a woman was found dead, according to provincial government spokesman Kheang Phearom.
Photos provided by local police show the rescued people standing on a jetty on the Cambodian mainland wearing garish holiday clothes, but it was unclear whether they were provided to them after being pulled out of the water.
Provincial police chief General Chuon Narin told local media that the group of passengers left the Chinese port of Guangzhou on September 11 on a speedboat and were transferred to the Cambodian fishing boat in the waters. international on September 17.
The boat was close to its destination of Cambodia’s Sihanoukville province when its engine quit and it began to sink, he said.
Another Cambodian boat arrived and rescued the two Cambodian crew members, leaving the Chinese passengers to fend for themselves, Chuon Narin said.
The two Cambodians were arrested and are being questioned by the police.
It was not immediately clear why the Chinese were being brought to Cambodia, but Deputy Chief of the Cambodian National Police, General Chhay Sinaith, said last month that authorities had uncovered numerous illegal online schemes luring workers in recent years. in the country.
In the most recent incident to come to light, the Malaysian foreign minister flew home 24 nationals from Cambodia two weeks ago after they were rescued by human traffickers.
Last month, the Taiwanese government said 333 of its citizens were stranded in Cambodia after being lured by criminal groups promising high wages for tech jobs.
In Beijing, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin told reporters his government was in close communication with Cambodian authorities over the incident.
“We urge the Cambodian side to spare no effort to search for and rescue the missing and quickly find out what happened,” he said.
Cambodian authorities have sought help from private boat operators in the area, announcing a $500 reward for each passenger rescued.
Survivor Chengui Sheng told authorities there were 38 men and three women on board when the ship began to sink at 10:30 a.m. Thursday, Kheang Phearom said.
Those rescued were taken to a nearby Cambodian naval base, he said.
Rising reported from Bangkok.