Three Thai missing boats loaded with smuggled diesel found off Malaysian coast

BANGKOK: The three boats that disappeared from a marine police station last week with some 330,000 litres of diesel were found in Malaysian waters on Sunday (June 16) and are being towed back.

Pol Maj-General Jaroonkiart Pankaew (pic), deputy commissioner of the Central Investigation Bureau (CIB), said the three boats are expected to reach Songkhla pier on Monday.

Jaroonkiart was speaking to reporters just before boarding a police plane to Songkhla, where he will interrogate the crew of the three boats himself.

The three fishing boats were among five seized by the coast guard in the Gulf of Thailand on March 17 with 28 crew members. Most of the crew are of Thai nationality.

Three of the five boats were found to be loaded with some 330,000 litres of diesel smuggled from a neighbouring country to sell cheaply in Thailand. The other two boats were empty.

The five boats were towed to the Sattahip marine police’s pier in Chonburi. On the evening of June 11, officers guarding the boats allowed them to be moved away from the pier due to strong winds.

The officers believed the heavy winds and big waves would cause the boats to smash into the pier and get damaged.

However, no officers were dispatched to watch the boats and the three loaded with diesel disappeared late that night.

Channel 8 reported earlier that certain members of the coast guard had allegedly siphoned some diesel from the boats to sell and had let go of the boats to conceal their crimes.

On Monday, Pol Maj-General Preutthipong Nutchanart, commander of the marine police division under CIB, said it was found that some of the oil on the three boats was missing. He did not elaborate.

He also said eight of the 16 crew members on the three boats had also disappeared.

Preutthipong added that he believes some members of the Sattahip coast guard definitely had a hand in letting the boats go. He said Jaroonkiart has given him seven days to investigate the case and determine who was involved.

Meanwhile, Pol Colonel Chatchawal Chuchaicharoen, commander of Crime Suppression Sub-division 2, said he had learned from lawyers that only 11 of the 28 crew members arrested on March 17 were still available to face charges after being released on bail. The 11 suspects are scheduled to report for interrogation later on Monday. - The Nation/ANN

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Thailand , Malaysia , missing , boats , diesel , smuggle


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