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Thailand, Phuket, Phang Nga Bay: Thai Officials try to fine Australian Yacht

By Phuket Gazette; Dr Surin — last modified Sep 18, 2014 10:52 AM
A 10,000 baht fine lodged against an Australian-owned yacht was dropped after officials confirmed that the vessel had already checked-in at Phuket.

Published: 2014-09-16 23:00:00
Countries: Thailand

Thailand, Phuket, Phang Nga Bay: Thai Officials try to fine Australian Yacht

© Phuket Gazette

As reported by the Phuket Gazette, with extra information courtesy of Dr Surin.

Last weekend, four Australian yachties claimed that a group of six uniformed Thai marine officers had shown up on a dinghy and had attempted to extort money from them while at sea in Phang Nga Bay.

The Thai officers and Australians had a 45-minute-long broken conversation about the charges before the officers wrote up the official fine and left without money.

Phang Nga Marine Office Chief, Wimonman Suwannarat, explained; “The officials that handed down the fine that day are my staff. I ordered them to drop the case after we found out that the Australian yacht was registered in Phuket.”

Ms Wimonman denied reports that her officers had called the Australians multiple times after the fact, asking for the payment. Ms Wimonman also denied that the fine had been imposed because the Australian vessel was not flying a Thai flag while in Thai waters.

“The 10,000 baht fine was charged because the marine officers inspecting the yacht believed that there was no Thai captain or engineer on board. They were not aware that the vessel had already been registered with the Phuket Marine Office,” she explained. “The fine had nothing to do with the lack of a Thai flag.”

Both Ms Wimonman and Phuket Marine Office Chief Phuriphat Theerakulpisut confirmed that there is no fine for not flying a Thai flag on a foreign vessel. “Of course, it is good manners to fly the flag of the country you are passing through. However, you will not be fined for not doing so,” said Mr Phuriphat.

Moreover, Ms Wimonman confirmed that internationally-registered vessels are not required to have Thai captains. “Captains on these vessels have international licences, therefore a Thai captain is not required,” she said.

Ms Wimonman told the Gazette she believes this incident can serve as a lesson for better communication among marine officials. “Good communication skills and making sure that everyone is up-to-date and properly informed are all important issues that need to be raised in Phang Nga and Phuket – and even in other nearby provinces.”

Ms Wimonman said. Ms Wimonman also voiced her hopes that the new regulations regarding the Automatic Identification Systems (AIS) for all foreign-flagged yachts (story here) would help make marine officers’ jobs easier. “The same AIS regulations for Phuket will also take effect in Phang Nga and Krabi. I hope that this system will help make our jobs easier, and help us to identify all boats entering and exiting our waters,” she said.

Editor's Note:

This Australian yacht had already cleared into Thailand in Phuket. Quite why it was mistaken for a Thai registered yacht and hence fined for not having Thai crew on board is not known.

Cruisers should be aware that incidents of corruption such as this have occurred in the past, and it is recommended that should a Thai official approach your boat you have a camera ready to photograph them coming alongside.

There are moves in Phuket to try and eradicate corruption and leading the way is Dr Surin, who speaks excellent English and will assist should any visiting cruisers feel they are victims of possible extortion by Thai Officials. This article outlines the anti-corruption work Dr Surin is undertaking. Any yachts that are pulled over by Thai Officials, after finding out what the issue is supposed to be and if it is considered to be a scam, should call Dr Surin on the below number and explain what is happening, then hand the phone over to the officials.

Thailand Anticorruption – (in Thai: การป้องกันและปราบปรามการทุจริตและประพฤติมิชอบ)
Dr Surin Thai mobile: 08-1891 2333
E-mail: dr.surin@icloud.com

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