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Coral thieves escape police raid

Legacy Phuket Gazette

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Coral thieves escape police raid | Thaiger

RAWAI: Police yesterday interrupted a group of men as they were unloading stolen coral worth 100,000 baht from a boat, but the gang of 10 escaped. As the men fled they left behind 340 pieces of coral packed neatly in polystyrene containers. Local residents tipped police off when they saw the coral being transferred yesterday afternoon from a longtail boat to two motorcycles with sidecars near Vichit Bungalow. Pol Col Sati Malakanond, Superintendent of Chalong Police Station, told the Gazette that there were 10 containers in the sidecars and about four containers still on the boat when police arrived. “We saw four men on the shore and six men on the boat,” he said. “When they saw us all the men jumped into the boat, threw the coral into the sea and escaped.” Col Sati said police believe this group have been operating in the area for a long time and are probably known to the Phuket Provincial Fisheries Office (PPFO). Gawi Sataranakomkul, of the PPFO, told the Gazette, “There are about four dealers in the Rawai area – both locals and people from other provinces – who sell coral to foreigners. “Every time we try to catch them, they escape. We have officers standing by at the Sea Gypsy village in Rawai, but right now they seem to be aware of us and most of them have changed the way they operate.” He estimated that 40% of the coral that once existed in Phuket’s waters has disappeared, and added that destruction was continuing due to coral thieves, fishermen using explosives, and tourists taking souvenirs. The seized coral has been sent to the Phuket Marine Biological Research Center.

 

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