Prajuap Mokarana, Head of Department of Marine and Coastal Resources (DMCR) Marine Protection Division responsible for Phuket and Phang Nga, told The Phuket News that the charges follow his office receiving a tip-off at about 10am yesterday (Jan 19), telling his officers that a man was carrying corals in large buckets at a beach near Cape Panwa.
“We arrived at the scene and saw Mr Sheng-Mou Thou, 55, holding a bucket containing live corals. He saw us and told us in in Thai that he was releasing corals back to nature,” Mr Prajuap said.
“However, we found another two buckets containing live corals in his vehicle,” he added.
“We invited Mr Sheng to be questioned at our office, where he admitted that he had corals at his house in Koh Kaew.
“We took Mr Sheng to Phuket City Police Station to file a formal complaint for illegal possession of corals under the Wildlife Preservation and Protection Act 2019,” Mr Prajuap explained.
“Mr Sheng then led our officers and police to his house, where we found 10 large drums with live lobsters in them, but also containing about 160kg of all different types of corals, including mushroom corals, boulder corals and staghorn corals.
“Mr Sheng said that having the corals in the drums with the lobsters was good for the lobsters,” Mr Prajuap noted.
Mr Sheng, and his wife Wirawan Thou, 52, who lives in the house with him, now both face charges under the new Wildlife Preservation and Protection Act 2019, Mr Prajuap explained.
The new act brings harsher penalties, Mr Pajuap pointed out.
“The previous maximum sentence under the old law was up to four years in jail or a fine of up to B40,000, or both.
“But under the new law the maximum penalty is to up to five years’ imprisonment or a fine of up to B500,000, or both,” he said.
“Phuket City Police have nearly nearly completed their investigation. They will submit the case to the Public Prosecutor tomorrow (Jan 21),” Mr Prajuap told The Phuket News.
“We look forward to the suspects being punished at the discretion of the court,” he added.