A fishing boat with a permit issued by the breakaway Somali state of Puntland, bearing the Thai name of Chotechai Navy 35, was recently intercepted in Samut Sakhon on suspicion of illegal fishing and human trafficking, police announced on Thursday.
The crew of 22 Thais and one Cambodian were detained and 500,000 kilograms of fish and other marine life seized.
During a press conference in Bangkok, Pol Lt-General Jaruwat Waisaya, chief of the Office of Legal Affairs and Litigation, said the boat, captained by Pawit Kerdsuwan, had docked at Samut Sakhon’s Thachin Union Port to unload fish.
However, officials found that the boat only had a fishing permit from Puntland and also violated the catch limit of 270,000kg of fish, Jaruwat said.
After Thai officials filed an inquiry, Somali authorities replied that the country had not authorised the boat to fish in its own waters and it was not registered in its system. Puntland is internationally recognised as a part of Somalia, although it declared independence in 1998.
The boat was not equipped with the vessel-monitoring system that was legally required, Jaruwat added.
Police proceeded with legal action on charges of bringing an illegal fishing vessel into the Thailand’s waters without permission, which is punishable by a fine between Bt1 million and Bt30 million.
Charges were being filed against Green Laurel International, the legal entity registered as the boat’s owner; its executives Supachote Saengsuk-eium and Surakan Saengsuk-eium; another man identified as the boat’s real owner, Wanchai Saengsuk-eium; and SVG Fisheries Development Co, Jaruwat said.
Both Supachote and Wanchai surrendered to police last week, denying the charges and saying they would testify in court, Jaruwat said.
Surakan failed to meet police after a second summons, claiming she was ill, and promised to surrender on Friday, Jaruwat said.
The Cambodian worker apprehended on the boat told police that he had escaped from hardship working conditions on another vessel named Chotechai Navi 55 and hitched a ride on the Chotechai Navy 35 to return to Thailand.
Thai authorities have already sent the man back to Cambodia.
Thailand has been conducting an ongoing campaign to combat illegal, unlicensed and unregulated (IUU) fishing since being hit by the European Union with a “yellow card” for harmful practices within the fishing industry.