A senior police officer in Kuraburi spoke to the media this week. He confirmed that the men, together with the speed boat crew and a local fishing guide, are being held in custody as police finish their investigation. This requires witnesses to be be interviewed. A file will then be sent to the Phang Nga Provincial Court. In the meantime, he has requested that bail be denied to the suspects.
Two elderly Italian men have been held in the jail cells of the Phang Nga Provincial Court since their arrest on April 17th last on suspicion of illegal fishing within the confines of a protected national park in the Andaman sea. This week, a senior police officer in Kuraburi dealing with the case, Lieutenant Colonel Korkiet Boonrod, told the media that the men are being held at his request pending the outcome of an investigation into their activities and a file being sent to the Provincial Court in Phang Nga. He also confirmed that he has asked that bail be denied to the men being held since authorities boarded the tourist speedboat, the ‘Nicola’ on Wednesday April 17th last.
There are concerns for the two 70 year old Italian men who are currently being detained by Phang Nga Provincial Court in the idyllic province situated in southern Thailand. They were both arrested on April 17th last when Thai authorities intercepted a tourist speedboat fishing near the off limits Similan National Park, off Huyong Island near the coast of the province. The speedboat, equipment and fishing paraphernalia valued at over ฿2 million were also seized in the swoop. Thai authorities observed at least one person fishing off the boat on the east side of the island. They also seized over 46 kg of fish found aboard. The island is located in the protected area of the Similan National Park, a collection of unspoilt islands in the Andaman Sea, off Phang Nga.
Two Italians, Fishing guide, Captain and crew held in police detention in Phang Nga
The two Italian men have been named as Claudio Bonfatti and Mario Vincenzo Biccai. They were arrested with the crew of the boat and a local fishing guide. The other men have been named as the Captain of the speedboat, 35 year old Sansern Klasuek as well his mechanic 52 year old Wichart Damyot and a 27 year Myanmar national who worked as crew member, Ten Si Tu. The fishing guide was Prasert Kuansamrong who like the Captain, was 35 years of age.
Boat and equipment value at ฿2.1 million held
The boat seized was the ‘Nicola’ which was well known in the area. When authorities came on board, they found a fish haul which comprised of 115 fish with an approximate value of over ฿9,000. The boat was seized by park protection officers. It is being held as evidence pending the outcome of the investigation by Thai police into the incident and any subsequent legal prosecution. The boat had 29 fishing rods on board as well as ice boxes. It has been valued at over ฿2.1 million.
Police have asked that bail be denied
This week, Lieutenant Colonel Korkiet Boonrod of Kuraburi Police in Phang Nga gave an update on the status of the men arrested to the Phuket News in Phuket. ‘They are being held at my request pending the conclusion of the investigation. I have asked for them to be denied posting bail while the investigation continues. Now they are being held in the cells at Phang Nga Provincial Court,’ he said.
Kuraburi in Phang Nga province and the Similan National Park are sensitive areas
Kuraburi is a sensitive place in Thailand when it comes to smuggling and cross border criminal activity due to its strategic location on the coast of the Andaman Sea and proximity to Myanmar. There is also some sensitivity with the Similan National Park itself which Thai authorities have strictly limited access to. There are only just over three thousand visitors allowed on the islands each year with a further 500 for scuba diving. No overnight stays are allowed. The collection of islands that make up the national park was designated a protected area by Thai authorities in 1982.
Italians and friends aboard speedboat suspected of fishing within protected national park
The police chief told reporters that the investigation into the incident is not complete. An accusation has been made against the Italians, their guide and the the fishing crew by the Chief of the Similan National Park. The National park official is reported to have accused the men of illegal fishing within the protected area.
Thai police believe that this was not a normal tourist excursion but friends out fishing
The police chief explained that authorities believe that the men were not engaged in a normal tourist excursion when they were caught in the area. ‘So far, according to our investigation, they were not there on a tour. They are just friends who decided to go fishing together,’ he said. He explained that witnesses will be interviewed in relation to the fishing expedition and a file will then be sent to Phang Nga Provincial Court. He indicated that the fishing guide would not be charged in connection with his normal role as police had formed the opinion that the 35 year old Prasert Kuansamrong, was not acting as a tourist guide at the time the men were arrested.
Declined to comment on health and care for the two elderly Italians held since April 17th last
The senior police officer declined to answer enquiries as to the health and state of care for the two elderly Italians being held in custody since mid April. There has been no announcement by police as to what charges, if any, are yet to be leveled against the men who were initially taken to Kuraburi Police Station on April 17th for questioning after the interception of the speedboat at sea.