Press Release : The Criminal Court issued a fine and seized the vessel and catch of the convicted in the prosecution of the fishing vessel “Chotchainavee 35”

Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Kingdom of Thailand Press Release,
On 8 May 2019, the Criminal Court handed down a guilty judgment to the six defendants in the prosecution of the overseas fishing vessel “Chotchainavee 35” namely, Green Laurel International SARL, Mr. Supachote Saengsuk-iam, Ms. Surakan Saengsuk-iam, SVG Fisheries Development, Mr. Wanchai Saengsuk-iam, and Mr. Prawit Kerdsuwan for breaching Article 94 of the Royal Ordinance on Fisheries B.E. 2558 (2015) which states that no person shall bring a non-Thai fishing vessel that has undertaken illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing into the Kingdom. Article 159 of the aforementioned Royal Ordinance stipulates that those contravening will be liable to a fine from one to thirty million Baht or five times the value of the catch, whichever is higher. Each defendant was therefore fined 131,189,400 Baht. However, since they gave useful testimonies, the defendants’ sentences were reduced by one third according to Article 78 of the Thailand Criminal Code B.E. 2499 (1956). Their fines were therefore reduced to 87,459,600 Baht. The court also ordered the seizure of the fishing vessel and its catch.

The criminal proceeding against Chotchainavee 35 was a result of a joint operation undertaken by the Command Center for Combatting Illegal Fishing (CCCIF) and the Royal Thai Police on 2 May 2015 when the fishing vessel entered Thai waters. The owner of the vessel claimed that it was registered in Djibouti. However, the Thai authorities had been keeping track of the vessel and suspected that Chotchainavee 35 had illegally fished in Somalian waters. Since the owner of the vessel could not provide clear evidence that the catch on board was obtained legally, the Department of Fisheries subsequently issued an order to confiscate the vessel, its catch, and all assets on board on 27 July 2017. The Thai authorities also found out that the vessel was stateless since Djibouti had revoked the vessel’s registration on 1 June 2017.

Apart from the criminal proceeding against Chotchainavee 35, the relevant Thai authorities have also uncovered a connection between Chotchainavee 35 and two other vessels, namely Chotpattana 51 and Chotpattana 55. The three vessels were all formerly Thai-flagged and belonged to the same company owned by a group of Thai nationals. Later, the vessels withdrew their registrations from Thailand and obtained Djibouti flags to fish in Puntland waters, which is part of the Federal Republic of Somalia. On 1 November 2018, Thai authorities led by CCCIF, anti-human trafficking investigative officers and the Special Arrest Team (SAT) arrested the captains of both Chotpattana 51 and Chotpattana 55 in the Maldives on charges of trafficking of Cambodian labourers. All of these cases bore witness to the excellent cooperation between Thai authorities and INTERPOL in closely monitoring fishing behaviours and the use of labour on both vessels, in particular the case of human trafficking.

Furthermore, Thai authorities have continuously been expediting the trial process of illegal overseas fishing vessels that violate the Royal Ordinance on Fisheries B.E. 2558 (2015), including the case of three fishing vessels in Ranong Province. On 23 April 2019, the Court of Appeal ruled that the three fishing vessels titled Kor. Navamongkolchai 1, Kor. Navamongkolchai 8 and Kor. Nava 19 were guilty of the following charges; undertaking fishing in waters of other states and the high seas without permission (Kor. Navamongkolchai 1, Kor. Navamongkolchai 8), employing non-Thai fishing workers and providing no provision of work contracts, records of work hours, workers’ registry in Thai nor records of wage payments for inspection (Kor. Navamongkolchai 1, Kor. Navamongkolchai 8 and Kor. Nava 19). In this regard, the defendant, Ms. Kumneungnuan Wongkachornkitti, was ordered to pay a fine in total of 21,700,000 Thai Baht (approximately 610,000 Euros).

All these efforts reflect the Royal Thai Government’s commitment in strengthening law enforcement, especially Article 8 of the Royal Ordinance on Fisheries B.E. 2558 (2015) and its revision B.E. 2560 (2017), which states the penalties for all Thai, non-Thai, and stateless vessels associated with Thai beneficiaries. This has enabled the Thai law enforcement authorities to pursue prosecutions, in line with the international Agreements and Conventions related to fisheries conservation and management by which Thailand is obliged. This has prevented Thai fishing operators from undertaking illegal fishing under foreign flags in order to avoid strict fisheries law and regulations in Thailand.