PHUKET: The national commander of the Marine Police, Pol Maj Gen Suraphol Thuanthong, visited Phuket on June 18 to discuss ways of protecting vessels going through the Straits of Malacca from pirate attacks, which he said have become more frequent since the tsunami.
Gen Suraphol explained, “We don’t really have accurate statistics, because not all cases are reported, but I think the trend of attacks has been increasing since the tsunami, as poorer people struggle to recover from it.”
On June 1, the Thai skipper of a tanker taking fuel from Rayong, on Thailand’s Eastern Seaboard, to Krabi was captured in the Straits, a long-time haunt of pirates, and held to ransom.
The pirates initially demanded US$1 million (about 40 million baht) for his release. Sources in the Marine Office told the Gazette he was freed after the ship’s Bangkok-based owners paid US$40,000 (1.6 million baht).
Gen Suraphol, who neither confirmed nor denied the details about the ransom, said, “The captain is safe, but we need to take action to ensure that the sea is safe and peaceful.
“I don’t want to see this happening again, even outside Thai territorial waters. We have to raise awareness among fishermen and other people on the sea about the danger from pirates.”
He continued, “It is crucial that we network with our neighbors, especially in Malaysia and Indonesia, and especially on incidents that happen outside Thai waters.
“It isn’t always easy to track down people – foreign nationals or Thais – who have either committed a crime in Thai waters then fled outside them, or committed the crime outside our waters and then entered Thai waters.
“But we are working with our neighbors to coordinate information, which may solve this problem.”
In addition to Phuket, the General also visited Marine Offices in Satun, Trang, Krabi and Ranong.
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