Three pirate oil smuggling vessels, owned by southern pirate chief Joe Pattani, vanished with 330,000 litres of oil, potentially causing an oil slick off Pattaya. Five senior Marine Police officers have already been suspended amid a full investigation with others facing charges.

An extensive oil slick which appeared off Pattaya on Saturday is being linked to the escape of three pirate oil smuggling vessels from Sattahip last weekend. The three crafts, believed to be owned by a pirate chief in the south known as Joe Pattani, were last seen on Sunday, June 9th. They were carrying 330,000 litres of oil between them when they left Pattaya, believed to be heading into international waters beyond the reach of Thai authorities. The smuggling vessels were reported missing last Wednesday. The mysterious affair has already led to the suspension of five senior officers with the Marine Police. A full investigation by Police Major General Jaroonkiat Pankaew of the Central Investigation Bureau (CIB) is underway.

Picture of the vast oil slick off Pattaya on Saturday. (Inset top left). The pirate vessels at Sattahip Marine Police Pier before they disappeared last Sunday (Inset top right). Police Major General Jaroonkiat Pankaew was dispatched to Pattaya by Central Investigation Bureau (CIB) commander General Jiraphat Phuridet. In effect, he discovered a plot which has already seen senior officers suspended. However, the investigation is ongoing. (Source: Central Investigation Bureau (CIB), Thai Rath, and Pattaya City Hall)

There are rising fears that an oil slick which has struck Pattaya may be linked to the disappearance of three seized vessels sometime after 10 pm on the night of June 9th.

On Wednesday, June 13th, Marine Police at Sattahip reported the disappearance of the pirate boats. 

Five smuggling vessels linked with Southern pirate chief ‘Joe Pattani’ seized by police in March as part of an Economic Crime Suppression Division case

The vessels were seized by the police and Marine authorities in March this year. They are linked to smuggling on the high seas involving oil.

The three are named as the Seahorse with 150,000 litres aboard, the JP with 80,000 litres, and the Daoring with 100,000 litres. 

The trawlers were part of a fleet of five believed to be linked to southern smuggler Joe Pattani, or Mr Joe Namman Thuen. The case involved the Economic Suppression Division of the Royal Thai Police.

The three boats had crews of 6, 7, and 5 respectively, giving a total of 18 seamen who disappeared at the same time.

Vessels used to meet large oil tankers in international waters and smuggle contraband oil into ports for resale in local markets, particularly the South

The Southern pirate is believed to be linked to an extensive smuggling racket.

His vessels intercept large tankers off Thailand in international waters. The smaller craft load from them at sea and bring the contraband oil into ports on the coast for resale.

The smuggling activity is particularly concentrated in the south of Thailand off the Gulf. Key points of sale also include Phetchaburi and Samut Sakhon near Bangkok.

Sources suggest that on Saturday, June 8th, high waves and rough seas caused the Marine Police to order the crews to move the five vessels 100 metres offshore. 

Afterwards, officers on duty noted that at 8 pm the next evening, Sunday 9th, all the boats turned on their lights. Later at 10 pm, all the lights were switched off.

This was the last time the three missing crafts were seen.

Alarm was raised confirming three of the seized vessels with 330,000 litres of oil aboard were missing only on Wednesday leading to an immediate probe

Investigations into the disappearance this week suggest that the boats were stripped of navigation equipment.

However, it is thought that satellite equipment of some nature was brought aboard to allow the escape.

Undoubtedly, police believe the boats sailed beyond Thailand’s territorial waters with their contraband cargo.

The reports of the missing vessels reached Bangkok on Wednesday, and the Central Investigation Bureau (CIB) chief General Jiraphat Phuridet dispatched his deputy to investigate the matter.

Police Major General Jaroonkiat Pankaew, or ‘Big Kong,’ and other senior officers headed to Chonburi to probe the affair.

They reported that there was a failure to carry out duties. In addition, the Central Investigation Bureau (CIB) boss later confirmed that there was a suspected plot to let the vessels escape.

Five officers linked to the Marine Police sidelined. However, it is understood more junior personnel are suspected of a plot and facing criminal charges

On Wednesday, General Jiraphat ordered the transfer of five senior officers to inactive posts. These range from the rank of Police Colonel to Police Lieutenant Colonel. The transfer was made via order 131/2024 signed by the police chief.

Underworld surrogacy trade exposed, man arrested for smuggling semen from Thailand into Laos
Corruption and border smuggling linked to the Muno blast in Narathiwat. Call for top-level probe

However, it is reported that Section 157 charges for dereliction of duty are being pursued.

These are understood to be against more junior officers with the Marine Police. These men were responsible for the safe custody of the vessels as well as their cargo.

The investigation into the affair is proceeding.

Oil slick floating in an extensive area off Pattaya has caused local officials to seek clarification from Marine Police authorities as fear of damage grows

In the meantime, as of Saturday, it has not yet been confirmed if the oil slick off Pattaya Beach and nearby areas is linked to the case.

Chonburi officials are reported to be seeking clarification from the Marine Police. There are fears that the extensive oil slick may impact tourism and wider marine resources and activities in the resort city.

Videos and photos of the oil slick show it mixing with the water across a wide area. The oil is manifesting as a massive oil stain across the bay.

In particular, it was visible off Bali Hai Pier in South Pattaya. This is located within the NongPrue district of Bang Lamung in Chonburi. The slick was also visible off Bali Cape near the lighthouse.

Join the Thai News forum, follow Thai Examiner on Facebook here
Receive all our stories as they come out on Telegram here
Follow Thai Examiner here

Further reading:

Arrests ordered in Narathiwat fireworks blast, death toll reaches 12 with 300 homes ruined

Massive fireworks blast at a popular trading point in Narathiwat leaves at least nine people dead

Narathiwat bomb explosion leaves one senior police officer dead. PM demands tighter security

Pattani bombs put Thai security agencies on alert as they gear up for APEC Summit in Bangkok

Top insurgent leader suspected as behind Monday night’s large bomb attack on Pattani district

2 killed in 15-minute firefight between security forces and insurgents as Pattani siege is ended

Killer gang linked to murdered family holed up at a Pattani resort but refuse to surrender peacefully to task force

3 ‘innocent’ relatives dead in a horrifying terrorist attack on a main road in southern Thailand