PHUKET TOWN: The Marine Police have stepped up checks on Thai-flag vessels in an effort to curb any rise in gasoline or diesel smuggling, following the latest increase in fuel prices. A further 30 satang per liter was added to fuel prices yesterday, the result of a combination of rising international oil prices and the falling value of the baht against the US dollar, the currency for international oil trading. Yesterday’s price hike was the ninth since June. Pol Col Misakawan Buara, superintendent of the Phuket Marine Police, told the Gazette that, in the past, the Marine Police had acted against fuel smugglers only after receiving tip-offs. Now, he said, police boats will perform frequent random checks on vessels in Thai waters. He added, however, that he felt it unlikely there would be a surge in fuel smuggling. Vessel owners, he said, know the police are checking more stringently. They also know that, if caught, they risk confiscation of their vessels, which are worth a great deal more than the smuggled oil. Meanwhile, Sontaya Pinnam, Chief of the Phuket Province Internal Trade Office, told the Gazette that her department has stepped up the frequency of checks on the prices of basic food and consumer items in the island’s markets. She said that officers had so far detected no trend to raise prices as a result of increased fuel and transport costs. A few products, such as milk and cement, had risen slightly in price, she said, but this was because they were imported; the rises were the result of the weakening baht, not because of transport costs.
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