Making waves: Thai marine police chief boosts efforts against maritime crime

The newly appointed chief of the Marine Police Division has quickly made a name for himself and the often-understated unit, highlighting its significant role in curbing criminal activities and maritime threats in Thai waters.

Since taking office in October last year, Police Major General Phruttiphong Nuchanart has been at the helm of operations that led to the seizure of over 23 million litres of duty-free diesel fuel and an alarming 2 tonnes of crystal methamphetamine within a short period of three months.

November saw the marine police confiscating over 23 million litres of diesel fuel in an operation against the smuggling of duty-free diesel fuel, reserved for registered fishing boats. The penalties for transferring and offloading goods without customs clearance reportedly accrued to 2.7 billion baht.

A month later, in December, acting on credible information about an impending drug trafficking operation, marine and narcotics suppression police intercepted 90 cardboard boxes containing 2 tonnes of crystal meth at a pier in the Bang Pakong district of Chachoengsao. The illegal drug, concealed within bags of dried fruit, was on its way to the Philippines, Australia and other countries.

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The operation resulted in the arrest of 13 suspects, all Thai nationals.

To ensure tourist safety and work closely with local authorities, the division also staged a major drill on the island of Koh Lan, in Chon Buri, in late December. The drill simulated a drug trafficking bust and search and rescue operations.

Central Investigation Bureau

Their successful crackdown on drug and fuel smuggling, paired with a proactive approach to crime prevention, has landed the marine police in the spotlight within the Central Investigation Bureau (CIB).

Pol. Maj. Gen. Phruttiphong stated that the division, tasked with policing Thai coastal waters and ports, has been active in dismantling the illegal drug supply chain.

These illegal substances, typically manufactured along the Thai-Myanmar border, must pass through ports to reach international buyers. The division plays a vital role in intercepting drugs at sea and along the Mekong River before they reach their end destination, he said.

In tandem with the CIB and the government’s harder stance on untaxed fuel smuggling, the division has established an operation centre and is seeking additional funds to aid in their crackdown.

Pol. Maj. Gen. Phruttiphong also revealed a special task force within the marine police, known as Matching, committed to supporting its core and special missions. The task force, named after a character from the Ramakien, is involved in various marine operations, ranging from searching wrecks for evidence, to securing VIPs and responding to emergencies.

He emphasised that underwater evidence search requires specialised skills and equipment, making the marine police’s contribution crucial in solving crimes.

Sea emergencies

With Thailand’s extensive coastline, his unit is always ready to respond to emergencies at sea and has been involved in recent boat accidents in Chon Buri and Phang Nga.

Pol. Maj. Gen. Phruttiphong, having had a diverse career in the police force before he was appointed marine police commander, is equipped with a law degree and has successfully passed the Thai bar exam.

He has worked as an interrogator for the Tourism Division, served as a tourist police inspector in Hua Hin of Prachuap Khiri Khan province, and has been a superintendent at Wangsomboon station in Sa Kaeo, among other roles.

He stressed that the marine police division, although lesser-known, has collaborated closely with domestic and international agencies to enhance its ability to tackle often complex cross-border crimes.

Although maritime security threats like terrorist acts are rare, collaboration and information sharing are essential, he said. The division is also developing communication channels and tools to enable us to better prevent and respond to threats, reported Bangkok Post.

Thailand News

Mitch Connor

Mitch is a Bangkok resident, having relocated from Southern California, via Florida in 2022. He studied journalism before dropping out of college to teach English in South America. After returning to the US, he spent 4 years working for various online publishers before moving to Thailand.

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