“The boat has been impounded and all people not directly involved in the investigation are banned from the vessel until the investigation has fully concluded,” Mr Weerasak said.
“This is a decision agreed by the Chinese Ambassador and the Thai Government. It is for the best investigation as it is priority case for both countries,” he added.
Present in front of the press with Mr Weerasak yesterday were Chinese representatives led by Li Chunlin, Counselor and Consul-General at the Chinese Embassy in Thailand.
“We are following up on this closely. Now we expect the Thai Government to urge the investigation team to find out the cause (of the disaster), then charge the person (or persons) responsible,” Mr Li said.
Mr Weerasak also called on the media to report less on the progress of the investigation.
“I think people got enough information while the boat was being raised. Now there is nothing so dramatic. There will not be any more official reports until the investigation finished, so please report less about it. Let investigators do their job until the result leads to formal charges,” Mr Weerasak said.
The wreck has now been moved to the Rattanachai Shipyard in Rassada, on the east side of Phuket Town, Mr Weerasak confirmed.
“The boat has been seized for investigators by the order of Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha. In accordance with that order, the boat will remain impounded until the investigation has concluded,” he added.
Of note, the Bangkok Post reported that Mr Weerasak had confirmed that an initial investigation found that the vessel had been built ‘off-standard’, using an adapted engine from a 10-wheeled truck, which posed a risk, while a water pump was also found to be smaller than the standard required. (See story here.)
In August, Minister Weerasak announced that 100 investigators under the command of Royal Thai Police Deputy Commander Gen Rungrot Saengkhram were to inspect the wreck. (See story here.)
That same month, the Director-General of the Marine Department, Jirut Wisanjit, announced that investigators and experts will have 30 days to inspect the wreck. (See story here.)
No such confirmations were made yesterday. Asked how long the investigation will take, Mr Weerasak responded, ‘‘That depends on the investigation team.’’
Asked whether the recovery of the wreck would restore Chinese tourists’ confidence in travelling to Thailand, Mr Weerasak said, “Their confidence depends on the result of the investigation, on the cause of this accident.
“We know that personal recklessness was a factor, but we want to find out the cause from the boat. We have wait until the investigation has concluded.”
Shifting the focus on having more Chinese tourists travelling to Thailand since the drastic fall in the number of Chinese tourists visiting the country on holidays since the disaster, Mr Weerasak said, “I believe the news that they watch will give them the answers that they are looking for.
“Right now Western and Asean tourists are coming back after the monsoon season. The number (of tourist arrivals) will increase after December 1.
“The charter flights are coming back, plus we have provided the packages and have promoted special tourism activities to Chinese tourists. Also, double-entry visas for Chinese tourists will be ready soon, which will allow tourists to stay in Thailand for six mouths,” Mr Weerasak said.