A team of more than 10 custom officers led by Paisarn Cheunjit, Director of the Investigation and Suppression Bureau (ISB), The Royal Thai Custom Department and Nimit Sangampai, Deputy Director of ISB, seized a modified fishing boat around 6am this morning.
The boat, Chokthaworn 8, contained 50,000 litres of diesel worth around B1.5million.
“The boat was modified to look like a fishing boat to escape from being seen,” Mr Paisarn said.
“It really looks like a normal fishing boat – if we were not given clues before, we would not have known that this boat had illegal petrol stored underneath.”
The boat was driven by a hired captain, Worapan Supawinit, 30, a Phuket citizen. He came with three crew members who are also Thai. All four men were arrested.
“They transferred the petrol from Malaysia,” Mr Nimit said “There is a large ship in the Malaysian sea which many boats go to and collect the petrol, then bring it to sell in Thailand.”
Mr Nimit said a report came through about the smugglers so the officials waited for them to reach Thai waters, so they could arrest them. This took about three to four hours, he said.
Mr Worapan admitted that they were hired by a businessman. The four men are now being held in custody in the Customs Pier Office.
The Customs office has the authority to deal with the matter, instead of the men going into police custody. The men will likely be fined and released.
In the last 10 months, there have been seven oil smuggler boats seized in Southern Thailand, with the combined diesel on board carrying a value of some B30m.
In July last year, customs officials seized a tanker with 230,000 litres of smuggled diesel on board, 10 nautical miles (18.5 km) off Racha Noi Island.
Diesel sells in Malaysia for a considerably lower price than in Thailand, resulting in big profits for smugglers who can successfully bring diesel from Malaysia into Thailand.