Conflicting accounts over arrests in Langkawi waters

BANGKOK: Conflicting accounts have emerged over what happened in the waters near Pulau Langgun in Langkawi two days ago where Malaysian police arrested four Thais and Thai authorities in turn arrested four Malaysians.

The Thais claim the three Satun policemen and a deputy village headmen arrested by the Malaysian authorities were merely carrying out their duty in stopping foreign fishermen from trespassing in Thailand waters.

“Both Malaysia and Thailand have their own claims. For now, we want the people, four Malaysians and four Thais, to return to their families for Hari Raya Aidiladha,” Satun governor Pattanapon Rattanapichetchai told Bernama today.

He said investigations to ascertain which side was at fault would take time and could mean all the men currently detained by Thai and Malaysian authorities would be unable to celebrate Aidiladha tomorrow with their loved ones.

Both sides, said the governor, needed to talk to each other after Aidiladha to resolve the matter.

As a result of a meeting between Thai and Malaysian officials, chaired by Pattanapon yesterday, four Malaysian fishermen held at the Satun police station were released by Thai authorities at 11 last night and returned to Langkawi.

The Thai side hoped the Malaysian authorities will reciprocate and release the three policemen and the deputy village headman currently being held in Langkawi.

Pattanapon said yesterday’s meeting went well with both sides supporting each other’s efforts in resolving the matter.

The Malaysian authorities, according to him, wanted to establish a committee for both sides to discuss any issue involving human trafficking, drugs and illegal fishing.

The meeting also agreed for both sides to meet more often and discuss issues regularly, said Pattanapon.

Despite the claim by Malaysian authorities of a robbery, the Thai side claimed that a group of seven policemen, along with the Tanjung Po village headman and his deputy, were patrolling waters near Koh Sam (Pulau Tiga) to deter trespassing foreign fishermen.

The patrol party was trying to apprehend the trespassing foreign fishermen when the Malaysian authorities arrived and detained the three Satun policemen and deputy village headman for alleged robbery.

They were taken to Langkawi for questioning and their three pistols were confiscated. The four Malaysian fishermen detained by the Thai authorities were transferred to Satun.

The seven policemen, including the three currently detained in Langkawi, have since been suspended from duty pending an official investigation, Satun police chief Maj Gen Supphawat Tapkiew told Bernama.