Navy defends response to capture of Thai fishing boats

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Royal Thai Navy officials defended their response after three Thai fishing boats were captured fishing illegally in Cambodian waters, saying the navy did move to help the boats, but was limited by diplomatic restraints.

Vice Adm. Suchip Wangmaitri, commander of the First Naval Area Command, said at a Thailand Marine Enforcement Coordinating Center meeting at the Mercure Hotel in Pattaya June 11 that the three Thai boats had strayed too far into Khmer waters for the navy to assist them.

Vice Adm. Suchip Wangmaitri, commander of the First Naval Area Command, addresses the Royal Thai Navy’s response to Thai fishing boats being caught fishing illegally in Cambodian waters.Vice Adm. Suchip Wangmaitri, commander of the First Naval Area Command, addresses the Royal Thai Navy’s response to Thai fishing boats being caught fishing illegally in Cambodian waters.

Cambodia’s navy intercepted the Thai boats June 9, about 50 miles from Koh Kood in Trat Province, which placed them in Cambodia’s Koh Kong province.

The navy was criticized for not coming the Thai boats’ defense, but Suchip said the navy did, indeed, know of the problem but was only able to contact the military’s diplomatic-coordination office to help.

By the time that office could have worked to have the fishermen released, the owners of the boats had already paid the 3.3 million baht total fine and departed, he said.

The meeting in Pattaya was a routine session scheduled to review the MECC’s budget and progress on the navy’s efforts to register fishing boats in order to comply with the European Union’s regulations regarding illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing.