Lt Col Siriwat Inyim, Deputy Chief of the Wichit Police told The Phuket News this evening (Apr 19), “This is my case to investigate, and I have received a complaint asking police to press charges under Section 119 of the Criminal Code.”
“However, although I have yet to conclude my investigation, if I do not find any evidence that this seastead threatens national security, I will not ask the Public Prosecutor to move ahead with that charge,” Col Siriwat said.
“Instead, I will ask the Public Prosecutor to file a much lesser charge, one that very likely will not include the death penalty,” he added.
However, Col Siriwat noted that even if he requested the Public Prosecutor to move ahead with a lesser charge, “I will have to still attach the Navy complaint to my recommendation as that is required by standard procedure.”
The public statement by Col Siriwat to allow for a much lesser charge that will likely not include the death penalty follows Rear Admiral Kritsana Kultiya, Chief of Staff of the Royal Thai Navy Command Third Area Command, which is based in Phuket, today denouncing claims made in posts online that the Navy is hunting Mr Elwartowski and Ms Supranee “to end their lives”.
“We are not hunting them ‘to end their lives’. That is not true,” R/Adm Kritsana said.
“We just want them brought to justice, and we have handed the search for the couple over to the Royal Thai Police and the Immigration Bureau as that is their job to do. We are the Navy, our areas of concern are out on the water,” he added.
“We have already filed a complaint of their crime under Section 119 to Wichit Police Station (see story here). I repeat that we have power to take action on the water, but it is the police and immigration police’s job to find, arrest them, not us,” R/Adm Kritsana explained.
R/Adml Kritsana ’s comments came in response to reporters’ questions at a press conference held at Provincial Hall today over the seastead case, which has made international headlines after Mr Elwartowski and Ms Supranee went into hiding, reportedly fearful that they may face the death penalty for the structure. (See stories here and here.)
Mr Elwartowski and Ms Supranee and the Ocean Builders project (see website here) have repeatedly denied that the couple were involved in the construction and placement of the seastead. They were just the volunteers who lived first on the platform to assess it, they said.
Maj Tossapon Kitilap, an investigator with the Phuket Immigration Police, told the press conference, “We still have not found them. We are still looking for them, but we are watching out closely for both of them now.”
Vice Governor Supoj Rotreuang Na Nongkhai urged sensitivity in following due process in the case.
“Wichit Police is investigating the case and reviewing the evidence carefully because the penalty foe the charge under the complaint filed is so serious.”
“The next move is to have the structure removed. We have drawn up a plan together with the Royal Thai Navy Third Area Command already. The seastead will be seized and removed from the water because the seastead it is in a location that is dangerous for itself and for boats passing through the area,” V/Gov Supoj said.
Meanwhile, Phuket Industry Chief Siwat Rawangkul accompanied by a host of other officials inspected a boatyard in Mai Khao on Wednesday (Apr 17) that Mr Siwat said had been confirmed as being hired to build the seastead and install it at its current location, some 42 kilometres south of Phuket.
In a very brief report, Mr Siwat said that the boatyard’s company documents were all in order. However officials had yet to examine the facility’s permit to operate as a place of production as required under the Factory Act 1992, he added.
No charges had yet been brought against the boatyard operator, but officials were continuing their investigation, Mr Siwat said.