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Sea Shepherd hunts Interpol-wanted poacher that escaped Phuket

Legacy Phuket Gazette

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Sea Shepherd hunts Interpol-wanted poacher that escaped Phuket | The Thaiger
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PHUKET: The hunt is back on for the internationally black-listed illegal, unreported, unregulated (IUU) fishing vessel that slipped through the fingers of Phuket officials earlier this year, confirmed Captain Siddharth Chakravarty of the Sea Shepherd ship Steve Irwin.

“The summer fishing season for toothfish starts now, so we have launched this campaign before the Kunlun can do further damage,” Capt Chakravarty told the Phuket Gazette this morning.

The ship, which had recently changed its name from Kunlun to Taishan, was apprehended in Phuket after it falsely reported offloading 182 tonnes of illegally caught Patagonian toothfish, valued at 179 million baht, as 182 tonnes of grouper, valued at just 15mn baht (story here). However, after months of detention, the ship was able to flee the port it was moored at in Phuket (story here).

“Finding a vessel such as the Kunlun, once it had escaped, was like finding a needle in a haystack. Even with modern satellite technology and intelligence sharing, there remain enough avenues for such repeat offenders to disappear,” Capt Chakravarty said. “Thailand took the first step and that was to arrest the vessel, detain her in port and aid the investigations into the vessel’s operations.”

“More can and must be done, but the responsibility must be shared by all countries involved, including those that consume the fish, and not left to be borne by the trading countries alone.”

Three Phuket Customs Officials were transferred out of the province following the ship’s escape in September.

“The Phuket Customs chief and two other officers were transferred to Bangkok,” explained Charoen Chamniklang from the Thai Customs Investigation and Suppression Bureau (ISB). “They allowed the ship to re-fuel, as it needed to keep all 182 tons of toothfish on board frozen. Once completely re-fueled, the Kunlun managed to escape.”

Other than levying a fine for falsely reporting the toothfish as grouper, officials had no authority to keep their cargo, explained Mr Charoen.

“The ship had already been through all the legal formalities at the Customs Office. However, the Phuket Marine Office was still investigating it for issues with its registration,” Mr Charoen explained.

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

Following the unprecedented success of Operation Icefish earlier this year, Sea Shepherd today announced its second campaign to target illegal Patagonian and Antarctic toothfish operators in the Southern Ocean.

At the conclusion of the last campaign, five of the six known illegal toothfish poaching vessels had been detained. The sixth and most notorious, Thunder, was scuttled in waters surrounding Sao Tome and Principe following a 110-day pursuit by the Sea Shepherd ship, Bob Barker. Sea Shepherd believes that the ship was scuttled in an attempt to destroy evidence of the Thunder‘s illegal fishing operations.

Sea Shepherd has continued to monitor the movements of the remaining illegal vessels throughout the year. This year’s campaign will focus on bringing Interpol-wanted poachers Viking and Taishan to justice.

“Sea Shepherd’s sole aim is to provide a parallel policing presence on the oceans. As the case of Thunder proved, we can intercept, chase, investigate and aid prosecutions to end criminality in its entirety. It is a disappointment that the Kunlun [Taishan] escaped from the clutches of law enforcement, but it also proves just how effective at-sea patrols are and why campaigns such as Operation Icefish are necessary,” Capt Chakravarty told the Gazette.

Led by Capt Chakravarty, Sea Shepherd will once again focus its attention on defending the pristine waters of Antarctica, with the aim to eliminate illegal fishing of vulnerable toothfish from the region.

Top predators in the waters of the Southern Ocean, toothfish are a unique, long-lived species that are particularly vulnerable to exploitation due to their slowness to reach sexual maturity and high market value. Though only limited scientific information exists on the fish, it has been shown that illegal fishing has had a devastating impact on populations, leading to collapse and closure of some fishing areas.

The flagship of the Sea Shepherd fleet, the Steve Irwin, will depart from Melbourne, Australia in December to patrol the ‘shadowlands’ of the Southern Ocean. The ‘shadowlands’ is an area outside of national jurisdiction with limited legitimate vessel traffic, where the risk of detection of fishing crimes by law enforcement authorities is minimal, explained Sea Shepherd.

The Sea Shepherd crews will employ direct-action techniques to fill a law enforcement void that continues to be exploited by the remaining illegal toothfish vessels, the group explained.

Despite the commitment shown by Malaysia, Indonesia and Thailand to prevent operators of ships such as the Taishan from illegally using their ports, Capt Chakravarty was unable to rule out that South East Asia would not be re-visited by toothfish poachers when it came to unloading their cargo.

“The applicability of international fishing violations remains limited in these countries,” said Captain Chakravarty.

“The oceans are in peril and our actions remain the only pro-active and definite policing presence to tackle illegality. We intend to embrace the responsibility with courage and fortitude, and once again locate, investigate and shut down the most notorious poachers on this planet.”

— Isaac Stone Simonelli

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Thailand

Thai Airways to resume flights from Bangkok to Chiang Mai and Phuket

Caitlin Ashworth

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Thai Airways to resume flights from Bangkok to Chiang Mai and Phuket | The Thaiger
PHOTO: Thai Airways

After nearly 9 months on the ground due to the coronavirus pandemic, along with problems balancing their accounts, Thai Airways will resume flights between Bangkok and Chiang Mai as well as Bangkok and Phuket later this month. The flights will start back up on Christmas day.

Flights from Bangkok to the 2 key tourist provinces have been grounded since April 1. Starting December 25, the airline will run 3 flights a week on both routes. A source told the Bangkok Post that the new schedules will run until at least February 28.

Thai Lion Air, Thai Air Asia, Nok Air, Thai Smile, VietJet Air and Bangkok Airways have returned to the domestic skies since July and slowly adding frequency to their routes.

In addition to resuming the domestic flights, the Thai Airways is relaunching some international flights from January 1 to March 27 including weekly flights to Frankfurt, London, Copenhagen, Sydney, Seoul, Manila, Taipei and Osaka. Flights from Bangkok to Tokyo will be available 3 times a week and flights from Bangkok to Hong Kong will be available every day.

Thai Airways has been tackling bankruptcy throughout the lockdown and trying to make up for more than 300 billion baht in losses. Since many flights were suspended due to travel restrictions, Thai Airways has tried to make money by business ventures on the ground, like a pop-up restaurant serving in-flight meals and selling off unwanted equipment from their warehouse. There also disposing of much of their older fleet, including all of their Boring 747-400s.

SOURCE: Bangkok Post

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Coronavirus (Covid-19)

97 police officers investigated for fiddling Covid-19 payments

Maya Taylor

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97 police officers investigated for fiddling Covid-19 payments | The Thaiger
PHOTO: www.newsbeezer.com

97 police officers, from 41 police stations, are currently being investigated for an alleged scam involving Covid-19 payments meant for officers who worked extra shifts during the crisis. The case was assigned by national police chief Suwat Jangyodsuk in November, when it came to light that some officers may have fraudulently claimed allowances meant for others.

In one incident, an officer responsible for transferring extra payments to police on the southern island of Phuket transferred the money to his own accountant instead. At the time, the transfer was dismissed as a mistake (in his favour), with the officer in question receiving a warning, and payments then made to the qualifying officers.

Wissanu Prasatthong-Osot from the National Internal Affairs Police says the investigation should reach a conclusion within the next 10 days.

“The result of the investigation should be ready in 10 days. Currently, 97 officers in 41 police stations ranging from non-commissioned to generals are under investigation for being involved in the swindle. The bureau aims to provide justice to all policemen involved. After the investigation concludes, the victims will receive their full allowance, while the offending officers will be punished under the law and disciplinary standards.”

Nation Thailand reports that a full list of alleged offenders has been sent to Suwat, with Wissanu promising that none will escape prosecution.

“The National Police chief had also ordered the transfer of offending officers at the commander and sub-commander levels out of their areas as per the investigation procedures.”

SOURCE: Nation Thailand

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Tourism

Thai-Chinese Chamber of Commerce to propose Guangzhou-Phuket tourism route

Caitlin Ashworth

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Thai-Chinese Chamber of Commerce to propose Guangzhou-Phuket tourism route | The Thaiger
PHOTO: 77 kaoded

A tourism route from Guangzhou, China to Phuket could help the island province recover from the recession brought on by the pandemic and lack of foreign travel, according to the Thai-Chinese Chamber of Commerce. The president of the organisation, Narongsak Puttapornmongkol, says they plan to submit a letter proposing the route under a travel bubble scheme to the Centre for Covid-19 Situation Administration.

The Thai-Chinese Chamber of Commerce is proposing a travel bubble with around 20 cities in China with no recent coronavirus infections and considered to be at a low risk of spreading the virus. Travellers from Guangzhou recently entered Thailand on the new Special Tourist Visa. It was the second flight of international tourists since travel restrictions were imposed in late-March.

“We believe that the Travel Bubble and the quarantine reduction will resolve the tourism business, which is a huge economic opportunity to recover.”

Once a vaccine is widely available, Narongsak suggests that those who wish to Thailand could also present their vaccination certificate or examination reports from the place of origin. He adds that the mandatory state quarantine period is likely to be reduced.

SOURCE: Pattaya News

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