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Netted: Phuket task force seizes pirate Southern Ocean trawler

Legacy Phuket Gazette

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Netted: Phuket task force seizes pirate Southern Ocean trawler | The Thaiger
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PHUKET: A joint task force in Phuket has seized one of six known illegal, unreported, unregulated (IUU) vessels wanted for fishing for toothfish in the Southern Ocean after it falsely reported and offloaded its cargo.

The ship, which recently had its name changed from Kunlun to Taishan, had already fled from the navies of New Zealand and Australia, as well as global conservation organization Sea Shepherd, before passing through Indonesian waters and mooring near Phuket.

Since 2008, the boat has changed its name at least 10 times, according to a Sea Shepherd Conservation Society report.

In January, Interpol issued a Purple Notice against the Taishan for illegally fishing for toothfish inside an area regulated by the Convention for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR).

“The only successful outcome of this arrest would be the seizure of the vessel,” Capt Siddharth Chakravarty of the Sea Shepherd ship Sam Simon told the Phuket Gazette.

The Sam Simon is taking part in the Sea Shepherd 2014 Operation Icefish, a campaign to stop the illegal fishing of Patagonian and Antarctic toothfish in Antarctic waters.

“There is evidence against the Kunlun of multiple crimes, including fishing without a permit, using banned gill-nets in a controlled fishery zone, changing flags and names to deliberately avoid detection and operating under shell companies as fly-by-night operators to exploit international loopholes,” explained Capt Chakravarty.

“She is sure to have human-rights violations as well on the contracts of the Southeast Asian crew she employs, and I urge the investigators to look into the human and the environmental crimes of the Kunlun. Thailand has the opportunity to make an example of the Kunlun and rid the country’s ports of IUU fishing fleets.”

Over the past decade, Southeast Asia has been a hotbed for IUU operators, with them launching and ending their Antarctic fishing seasons from the ports in these countries, he explained. Indonesia has recently sent a very strong message to the poachers by blowing up multiple illegal Vietnamese vessels, and Malaysia has arrested and fined vessels in the past.

“The captain of the Kunlun definitely miscalculated the extent of the refuge he would be granted in Phuket, Thailand,” Capt Chakravarty said.

The vessel was seized following a jointly-coordinated operation between Phuket authorities, Interpol and law-enforcement authorities in Australia and New Zealand.

“Australian authorities contacted the Customs Department asking that the contents from the Taishan be examined due to allegations of illegal fishing,” a high-ranking officer from the Royal Thai Navy Third Area Command, who asked not to be named, told the Gazette.

“The Taishan was delivering seafood products. It arrived at the Phuket Deep Sea Port at the beginning of March. The vessel passed through customs with no issues, as they presented all the legally required documents.”

However, after the notification, authorities recalled the shipment from Songkhla and discovered that the ship had falsely reported which kinds of fish products were being delivered.

“Toothfish are the sharks of the deep. If the world knew more about a fleet of six vessels poaching vulnerable shark populations in a managed fishery zone, there would have been public outrage and the vessels would have been apprehended instantly,” Capt Chakravarty said.

“But typical of humankind’s approach to the oceans, ‘What cannot be seen, cannot be a problem’, these vessels have been allowed to operate for a decade in complete violation of the conservation measures in the Southern Ocean.

“While the market for this fish is high-end restaurants in Europe and the United States, the gateways to those markets lie in Southeast Asia. Consumed as a delicacy in these markets, the operators earn millions of dollars from the catch of one vessel alone and those sums of money, along with the blind eye that has been turned toward them, means they have continued to exist for the past decade.”

The vessel owner, Stanley Management Inc, was contacted, as was the local handler South Services Co Ltd, to determine their role, if any, in the deceit at customs, said the investigating officer at the Phuket Customs Office, who declined to be named.

“The alleged illegal fishing took place outside of Thailand’s waters. It is beyond our authority to investigate those maters,” the officer said. “It is under International Law, so we expect international support in dealing with this case.

“Representatives from Interpol have yet to arrive, so at the moment we are simply detaining the vessel and investigating the false reporting with regards to the fish product.”

All 36 people on board the vessel – the Peruvian captain, four Spaniards and 31 Indonesians – have yet to face any charges, but are under watch onboard the ship.

One Spaniard was removed from the ship before it was seized due to self-inflicted wounds over alleged family issues (story here). According to a Sea Shepherd report, the Taishan is believed to have links to the Spanish organization Vidal Armadores, which has all but been convicted for countless allegations of operating fleets of illegal fishing vessels.

The Taishan is one of three IUU vessels intercepted by Sea Shepherd in January.

The Sam Simon intercepted the Taishan, then named the Kunlun, along with the Yongding inside the exclusive economic zone (EEZ) of Australia and well within the controlled waters of the CCAMLR in January.

“The vessels were not engaged in fishing when spotted, but were in transit to the fishing grounds after a spell of bad weather,” Capt Chakravarty said.

“However, the photos and the visual sightings confirmed the vessel’s identity, the presence of banned gill-nets on board and the immediate attempt of the vessel to flee from the fishing grounds without responding to any radio calls by me.”

Sea Shepherd ship Bob Barker has been in pursuit of another poaching vessel, Thunder, since December 13, making the pursuit the longest sea chase of a poacher in history.

“By shining the spotlight on these operators and by intercepting their operations, an international web of enforcement is quickly being cast on these vessels. To now see one of the vessels being apprehended is the reward we have been waiting for,” Capt Chakravarty said.

“This is the first instance where governments, non-government organizations and Interpol, along with local authorities, are acting in concert to end IUU operations on the high-seas.

“This heralds in a new dawn for the enforcement and the prosecution of fishing crimes and a successful seizure of the Kunlun would help Thailand set a benchmark in international investigations into IUU fishing operations.”

— Chutharat Plerin

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Archiving articles from the Phuket Gazette circa 1998 - 2017. View the Phuket Gazette online archive and Digital Gazette PDF Prints.

Transport

Phuket police confirm speed limit of bypass road after locals complain

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Phuket police confirm speed limit of bypass road after locals complain | The Thaiger

Phuket police are confirming the island’s bypass road speed limit as 50 kilometres per hour. That is, despite years of back and forth between motorists and the law. The latest announcement comes after locals posted online copies of their speeding tickets, which showed the confirmed limit. The stretch of road, almost the only stretch of road where you could get a car up to 100 kph, has long been a speedway for cars, trucks and vans.

The reason they are complaining is due to the fact that they say they were under the impression that speeding tickets would only be given to those caught exceeding 100 kilometres per hour along the bypass. They say police have assured for years that this would be the case.

Phuket City Traffic Police Deputy Chief Rungrit Rattanaphakdee says that normally motorists are allowed to drive up to 80 kilometres per hour on municipality roads but the bypass road’s speed limit is 50 kilometres per hour.

“Although drivers of private cars and motorbikes can drive not over 80 kilometres per hour on municipality roads in accordance with the Road Traffic Act B.E. 2522, all drivers must follow the 50 kilometres per hour signs installed along the bypass road.”

But his interpretation of the law contradicts a statement in 2015 by former Phuket Highways Office Chief Samak Liedwonghat and Teerawat Liamsakun, who was Phuket City Police Chief at the time. Samak said back then, that the signs with a white background and red circle are advisory only. In other words, not mandatory. Teerawat also concurred with Samak, in 2015, by saying that the signs were advisory only but warned that drivers may have an accident if they don’t comply with the advisory speed limit on the signs.

“Actually, speed is limited by law on this road [the bypass road] to 80 kilometres per hour in tessabaan (municipal) areas and 90 kilometres per hour in other parts. Our speed cameras are set to detect vehicles going faster than 100. Anyone caught going faster than that risks receiving a speeding ticket in the mail.”

Now, Rungrit says the speed limit is mandatory but motorists would not be issued tickets by the speed cameras unless motorists’ speeds were higher than 100 kilometres per hour.

Locals say they are still confused as they say Rungrit didn’t respond as to why the motorists were being ticketed when travelling under 100 kilometres per hour as he maintains that fines are only given to those going over 100 kilometres per hour. The photos of the tickets showed most of those ticketed to be travelling at speeds of 90-99 kilometres per hour, which directly contradicts Rungrit’s new interpretation of the law.

“….So far we have had tickets issued only to the drivers who drove faster than 100 kilometres per hour.”

“The signs are there to remind drivers to drive carefully under the speed limit, as normally drivers drive very fast on the road, leading to accidents.”

“We are trying to use technology to charge drivers’ behaviour, so we use speed cameras and have tickets sent to their homes. As you can see, we never set up any checkpoint along the bypass road, except during the long holidays.”

To be clear, Rungrit says the bypass road speed limit is 50 kilometres per hour, but you may be ticketed if your speed exceeds 100 kilometres per hour. That is, despite locals receiving tickets for going 90-99 kilometres per hour.

SOURCE: The Phuket News

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Thailand

UPDATE: Confusion over Covid-19 tests for visa extensions

Caitlin Ashworth

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UPDATE: Confusion over Covid-19 tests for visa extensions | The Thaiger

UPDATE: Khaosod English removed a story on Covid-19 tests for those seeking visa extensions and replaced it with the article “Immigration backtracks on plan to require Covid-19 test for visa extensions.” They say the previous report sparked uproar among expats and immigration police spokesperson has since apologised for the misunderstanding.

Original article…

Confusion reigns today over whether Covid-19 tests will be required for visa extensions. While The Phuket News spoke with an immigration official who said “no… you don’t need a Covid-19 test to extend your visa or apply for a work permit”, Khaosod English wrote an article headlined “Covid-19 test will be mandatory for all visa extension”.

The Thaiger also contacted a respected visa agent who said Covid-19 tests are, indeed, now required for applying for both visa extensions and work permits, even renewals.

The Thai Immigration Bureau has not made any official announcement regarding Covid-19 tests. Talk about Covid-19 tests for foreigners was brought up after a rule was published in the Royal Gazette last month, officially adding Covid-19 to a list of dangerous diseases, prohibiting those infected with any of the listed illnesses from entering the country.

Immigration Police Bureau spokesperson Archayon Kraithong told Khaosod English that proof of a negative Covid-19 test will be required for visa extensions, regardless of how long a foreigner has stayed in Thailand. On the other hand, Phuket immigration deputy chief Nareuwat Putthawiro told The Phuket News that Covid-19 tests will not be required for visa extensions or work permit applications.

“We do not require any medical documents for an application to renew a visa, because there are few foreigners’ movements outside Phuket. Most of them live and work in Phuket, and have done so before the new wave of Covid-19… So they do not have to worry about it. Everything is still the same.”

Medical exams are currently already required for most work permit applicants (including tests for Syphilis and Elephantiasis). A visa agent told The Thaiger that Covid-19 tests have been added to the medical examination requirements for work permit applicants. But, on the other hand, Phuket immigration says they DO NOT require Covid-19 tests for work permit applicants.

“We have not received any notices about Covid-19 requirements for processing applications to renew visas. If we do receive any such orders, we will let the public know.”

It isn’t the first time there has been conflicting statements coming out of different officials, in different immigration offices on different days.

SOURCES: Phuket News| Khaosod English

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Coronavirus (Covid-19)

Visitors to Phuket from “highest risk” areas must show Covid-19 test results

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Visitors to Phuket from “highest risk” areas must show Covid-19 test results | The Thaiger
PHOTO: Chiang Rai Times

People arriving Phuket from the “highest risk” areas are required to take a swab test by the staff at emergency operation centres (EOC) or show the test result document endorsed by the EOC staff made within 72 hours of their arrival. The revised order is effective from now until January 31, according to the Phuket Governor.

Those people who are on a brief business trip to Phuket need to show certificates from their employers describing the reason and necessity of their trips. If they want to leave their accommodations, they have to make a request to the EOC and clearly explain the reason as well as the time and destination. Visitors are also asked to avoid going to the community areas to avoid crowded gatherings.

It is noted that the revised order by the governor has not been officially promoted by the Phuket office of the Public Relations Department. However, all visitors are still asked to register online via the Mor Chana contact tracing application and via www.gophuget.com according to the order re-issued on Friday.

SOURCE: Phuket News

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