11 July 2024

The search continues today for the three oil smuggling vessels, which disappeared from the marine police pier in Sattahip on Wednesday and are believed to be heading for Cambodia.

The skippers of the vessels are believed to have sailed close to the shoreline, to avoid detection from the air, and to have relied on their standard navigation skills, since the GPS equipment had been removed, according to the Central Investigation Bureau (CIB).

Eleven of the crew, who knew about the plan to liberate the vessels did not take part, have been questioned by the police.

They said that the plan was hatched about a month ago. Some said they did not want to escape because they didn’t want to face more charges.

A black pickup truck was spotted at the same pier, parked close to marine police boat 633, but police say that the truck had nothing to do with the disappearance of the three boats and it was there to supply fresh water to the marine police boat.

Four Sattahip district marine police officers were transferred to the operations centre of the Central Investigation Bureau yesterday, pending the outcome of an investigation into the disappearance of impounded vessels.

The four officers are the superintendent of the district marine police, Pol Col Intharat Panya, the investigative inspector, Pol Lt-Col Kobchai To-on and two junior officers, Pol Sgt Thammarat Lekmontra and Pol Corporal Apichart Channu.

The CIB has ordered the formation of a committee to investigate the disappearance of the vessels, reportedly loaded with about 330,000 litres of smuggled oil and moored at the pier since March 17th.

The vessels, belonging to a major oil smuggler in southern Thailand, known as “Jo Pattani”, were apprehended by Economic Crime Division officers in March, along with their crews.

According to a report from Sattahip marine police, the officers in charge of the seized vessels allowed their skippers to move them away from the pier and to anchor at sea, about 100 metres from the coast, out of concerns that they could be damaged by a storm which hit the district on Tuesday night.

It wasn’t until Wednesday morning that marine police discovered that all three vessels had disappeared.