PHUKET: Marine Police have arrested 87 Burmese nationals who were discovered in the hold of an old wooden boat about eight nautical miles west of Koh Racha Yai.
Police said that they believe the Burmese, several of whom were in their early teens, were on their way to find work in Phuket’s fishing industry.
Following a tip-off, Marine Police patrol vessel Tor 629, under the captaincy of Pol Maj Panya Chaichana, intercepted the old wooden boat about 6:30 am on November 29, asking the two members on deck to board for an inspection.
About 10 Marine Police officers, along with eight Immigration Police, found a total of 87 illegal aliens on board. Almost all were crammed into the hold of the aging 50-foot vessel.
The boat’s occupants were arrested and escorted to Chalong Police Station, where they were charged with illegally entering the country.
The 32-year-old leader of the group, a man identified only as “Mong La”, told police the police they were Arakan people from Rakhine State, Myanmar. He said the group had been on board the vessel for 11 days before their arrest.
The group were taken to the Phuket Immigration Office, where deportation orders were issued.
The Arakans have been deported to Burma via Ranong, an Inspector at Phuket Immigration Officer confirmed to the Gazette.
Marine Police Sub-Division 5 Superintendent Pol Col Anun Huengsaitong said that he was under orders to strictly monitor waters in his area of command as boats smuggling illegal aliens into Thailand were expected to arrive, with most bound for Phuket.
Thai fishing vessels have been asked to keep and eye out for and report any unfamiliar vessels they notice in Thai waters, he added.
Col Anun said he suspected a people-smuggling ring involving Burmese nationals already in Phuket was helping other Burmese to enter Thailand illegally.
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