Phi Phi Police struggle to stomp out gibbon touts

PHUKET: Unaware of officers failing to find and arrest an illegal gibbon tout regularly operating at a specific time and location on Phi Phi Don, the recently appointed Phi Phi Police Chief Jetsada Junphum has taken matters into his own hands.

“I did not see the video sent to my officers until the Phuket Gazette sent it directly to me,” Lt Col Jetsada said. “I didn’t realize that officers were working on the case and failing to get results.”

The video, sent to the Gazette by a reader, clearly shows the culprit’s face and was forwarded to Phi Phi Police earlier this month (story here).

“I patrolled the area with several officers on Saturday, but did not spot the suspect,” explained Col Jetsada. “Restaurant owners in the area explained that the tout hadn’t been there for the last few days.”

Restaurant owners in the area were told to immediately inform police if the tout resurfaced.

“Sometimes they have lookouts who will spot our officers on patrol – so they are able to hide before we see them,” Col Jetsada said. “I am aware that they make good money from this kind of business, which is why they persistently return, despite us making arrests.”

One tout, arrested earlier this year, told officials that he could earn at least 5,000 baht per day during the low season and up to 20,000 baht per day during the high season.

With the possibility of making more than 500,000 baht a month during the high season, the maximum punishment – not more than a 4,000-baht fine, four years imprisonment or both – is hardly a deterrent, explained Suwat Suksiri, chief of the Thung Talay Non Hunting Zone.

Gibbons are generally brought to Phi Phi from Phuket. These baby gibbons, costing about 25,000 baht each, are sourced from the wild by poachers who take them from their mothers. The mother is killed in the process, Mr Suwat explained.

Complaints or tip-offs can be sent to the Gazette or filed directly with the Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation (DNP) hotline at 1362.

— Chutharat Plerin

Phuket News

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