The fishing boats Sang Samut 3 and Sang Samut 2 were seized by Royal Thai Navy officers at the Seang Arun Pier in Rassada on May 19 the day after a video showing a whale shark strung up on a the deck of the Sang Samut 3 between Koh Hei and Koh Racha, south of Phuket, went viral. (See video here.)
Narat Choophueng of the Department of Marine and Coastal Resources (DMCR) filed a formal complaint to police, accusing the crew of the Sang Samut 3 of breaching Section 66 of the Fisheries Act 2015 and Section 16 of the Wild Animal Reservation and Protection Act, B.E. 2535 (1992).
Breach of Section 66 of the Fisheries Act incurs a fine of between B300,000 and B3 million, “or to a fine of five times the value of the aquatic animals caught or brought on board a fishing vessel concerned. In whichever case, the higher fine shall apply.”
Breach of Section 16 incurs a penalty of up to four years in jail, or a fine of up to B40,000, or both.
Chalong Police Deputy Superintendent Lt Col Somsak Sopakarn, who received the complaint (see story here), confirmed to The Phuket News today, “We sent the case to Phuket Prosecutor a month ago.
“Other details I cannot tell you now, but they have referred this case to Bangkok,” he said.
Phuket Public Prosecutor Boontob Lanthong confirmed today that he had received the case and that his office were moving ahead with both charges.
Mr Boontob also confirmed, “We have also referred the case to the Prosecutor’s Office at the Department of Trafficking in Persons as by law what we are required to do.”
However, Mr Boontob did not elaborate on whether evidence of human trafficking had been uncovered by police in their investigation.
Meanwhile, Phuket Fisheries Chief Kowit Kao-ian today confirmed that both boats remain banned from putting to sea,
“Currently both boats are not permitted to leave port yet. We must hold them until the case has concluded,” he said.