After arresting three escaped oil smuggling vessels, concerns rise over collusion and corruption. With no oil found, just crew, dogs, and puppies, AG official warns arrests may be outside Thai jurisdiction, potentially collapsing the case. PM acknowledges significant issues.

After the arrest at sea on Monday of three escaped oil smuggling vessels, there is rising concern about the extent of collusion and corruption linked to the case. At the same time, as police discovered there was no oil on the boats except for only eight crew, seven dogs, and three puppies, there is anxiety that the case against the pirate owner of the boats may ultimately collapse. This prospect was raised on Wednesday by a top investigator at the Office of the Attorney-General (OAG), Mr Watcharin Panurat. He has raised the possibility that the boats were arrested outside Thailand’s international waters and jurisdiction. Therefore, it is conceivable that no crime can be prosecuted.

A police officer takes good care of two of three puppies found on the three oil smuggling boats in Songkhla on Wednesday. They were found with seven dogs and eight crew members. (Inset top) Director-General of the Investigations Office of the Office of the Attorney-General (OAG), Mr Watcharin Panurat, who is expressing serious concern about the point of arrest on Monday. (Inset bottom) Police Major General Jaroonkiat Pankaew of the Central Investigation Bureau (CIB), who is leading the investigation into the escape of the boats reported missing on June 12th from Sattahip Marine Police pier in Chonburi. (Source: Central Investigation Bureau (CIB) and Office of the Attorney-General (OAG))

On Thursday, Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin acknowledged significant problems with the prosecution related to the illegal oil boat saga.

At the same time, Mr Srettha told reporters that senior police are fully aware of a plot to assist the owner of the oil smuggling boats to escape custody.

Prime Minister tells reporters that police know all about the plot to free the three oil smuggling vessels. This includes information on senior police who assisted

Three out of five boats were reported missing on June 12th. Afterwards, on Saturday, June 15th, Pattaya suffered a large oil slick as efforts at sea to locate the boats intensified.

On Thursday, the PM was in parliament.

He had a scheduled meeting with Police Inspector General Kraiboon Thuatsong during the 2025 Budget debate. The meeting was to review Thailand’s ongoing fight against illicit drugs.

‘We know everything. Now we know everything, and Police General Kraiboon also knows. He also has the position of Inspector General of Police, who oversees conduct and discipline,’ said Mr Srettha. The PM accepted that the mastermind behind the plot was the pirate boat’s owner.

Pattaya fears massive oil slick may be linked to escaped pirate vessels with 330,000 litres of fuel aboard
Calls for a wider probe into oil smuggler Joe Pattani, the owner of the pirate boats that escaped last week

This is a powerful smuggler known as Joe Pattani based in Southern Thailand.

Powerful southern-based smuggler with many friends in high places. Not only within the police at the most senior level but within key ministries in Bangkok

Over the weekend, it was reported that the smuggler has friends in high places. These reports include two police generals as well as senior officials in four key ministries. 

Undoubtedly, on Thursday, at least one senior officer in the Crime Suppression Division (CSD) was also implicated.

This is part of the Central Investigation Bureau (CIB) which is currently pursuing the case.

Police Major General Jaroonkiat Pankaew, who is leading the investigation, has promised no stone will be left unturned. On Thursday, he said no matter what office or rank, arrests will be made of all those found culpable.

The operations of Joe Pattani are thought to be both substantial and lucrative. They have been ongoing since at least 2014.

Tangible evidence showing top Marine Police officers colluding with a Royal Thai Navy officer to effect the escape of the three pirate boats after June 9th

Evidence of the corruption linked with the smuggler is emerging on a daily basis. At this time, a conversation between Marine Police senior officers and naval officers has emerged. 

Significantly, it is linked with the escape of three of the five boats seized from the smuggler. Police Major General Jaroonkiat on Thursday confirmed it is authentic.

It is a record of interactions between Marine Police top brass and a naval officer. In brief, it shows collusion in the escape of the three detained oil smuggling vessels. 

Five boats linked to Joe Pattani were seized on March 17th.

Significantly, they contained over 330,000 litres of diesel oil. Nonetheless, on Wednesday at Songkhla Marine Police Pier, officials confirmed that there were less than 5,000 litres in the tanks of the three boats.

Three boats arrested off the Gulf of Thailand on Monday. Fears the point of arrest may have been in international waters therefore nullifying the case

The boats and eight crew were detained by Marine Police on Monday at sea. However, this is set to be the cause of even greater controversy.

On Wednesday, a senior official at the Office of the Attorney-General (OAG) raised serious concerns about the prosecutions in this matter. 

Mr Watcharin Panurat, the Director-General of the Investigation Department, suggested that senior officials including those from his office and police may need to identify the arrest point. 

Mr Watcharin expressed real fears that the arrests may have occurred outside the kingdom’s jurisdiction. He said Thailand has jurisdiction over only 12 nautical miles in the area where the boats were located. In turn, this may mean the arrest may be invalid. Indeed, the whole case may fall.

He indicated Attorney General Amnat Chotcharoenrak was monitoring the matter.

Boats originally escaped with 18 seamen aboard. They were located on Monday with eight crew members. Police urgently screening and debriefing these men

Meanwhile, on Thursday, Police Major General Jaroonkiat confirmed that up to four senior Marine Police officers and others were being investigated. He promised to pursue the case no matter where it led.

On Thursday, eight crew members who were on the vessels when they were subsequently arrested were ordered to be interrogated. They were sent to the Crime Suppression Division (CSD) headquarters in Bangkok. 

The boats originally escaped with 18 seamen aboard. Many of these men were released on March 19th. That is when ฿3 million in bail was paid by a representative of Joe Pattani, the owner of the original five vessels seized.

Afterwards, they took part in the breakout.

The three boats were reported missing on June 12th at 10 am. However, they may have been missing even before that since they were last seen on June 9th at Sattahip Marine Police Pier before they escaped.

Boats dumped their illicit oil cargoes and now it is thought they may have allowed themselves to be detained by Songkhla Marine Police to foil prosecutors 

In the meantime, the boats certainly entered international waters including Cambodian and Vietnamese seas. At the same time, they managed to lose the illicit cargo they were carrying and at least 10 crew members.

Afterwards, their position was identified off the Gulf of Thailand and they allowed themselves to be detained by Marine Police who set out from Songkhla.

The fear is that Thai officials and police may have been outwitted by the southern smuggler Joe Pattani.

On Thursday, Police Major General Jaroonkiat said Interpol red alert notices for the missing crew members were being processed.

On Wednesday, also, police told the media that three puppies had been found aboard the arrested pirate boats.

They were accompanied by seven dogs. In short, these were used by the pirates as an alert system for anyone who tried to board the vessels surreptitiously.

Police assured the public that good homes would be found for the pups while the dogs would be cared for by police authorities.

Attorney-General’s Office top official warns that if the point of arrest is outside the Kingdom’s jurisdiction then the case against Joe Pattani collapses

Meanwhile, Mr Watcharin has warned that the case against smuggler Joe Pattani may ultimately collapse.

He said the Office of the Attorney-General (OAG) has serious concerns about the situation, particularly whether the arrest point was within the jurisdiction of the kingdom at all.

‘It must be accepted that the arrestee and the interrogator are different people. The arresting party may know the information clearly. But our investigator didn’t go to arrest either. I don’t know exactly where the catch point was. We fear it will be fought later. This is a very big deal,’ he told reporters.

‘It could spell the collapse of the case. This case must be presented to the Attorney General who will make an order. Because it is a case outside the Kingdom, we must examine matters closely and make a detailed presentation. If an expression is proposed, the Attorney General must ask questions about the arrest point or the power to arrest. It may actually be outside Thai waters. But it is an area where seizures can be made by customs. The point of arrest is therefore very important. If it is outside the area where we have authority to arrest, it will turn out that there is no crime.’

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Further reading:

Calls for a wider probe into oil smuggler Joe Pattani, the owner of the pirate boats that escaped last week

Pattaya fears massive oil slick may be linked to escaped pirate vessels with 330,000 litres aboard

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