Thai cops free 4 Langkawi fishermen

BANGKOK: Satun provincial police have released and sent back four Langkawi fishermen who were allegedly abducted by a group of armed men in the waters off Pulau Langgun near the tourist island.

The police chief, Maj Gen Suphawat Tapkiew, said the fishermen were freed at Satun’s Tammalang ferry pier at about 11pm (midnight MYT) yesterday.

The release followed an agreement at a meeting between authorities from Thailand and Malaysia to find a solution to the problem, he told Bernama today.

The meeting was chaired by Satun governor Pattarapon Rattanapichetchai.

Bernama was made to understand that the meeting also involved officials from Malaysia’s consulate-general in Songkhla.

Suphawat said he expected the three Thai police officers and a deputy village head currently held by the Malaysian authorities to be released and returned to Thailand soon as part of the agreement.

The Thai policemen were attached to the Mueng police station in Satun, he said, adding that the four Malaysian fishermen were released after the police recorded their statements.

According to the media, the Langkawi marine police (PPM) rescued a group of Malaysian fishermen who were captured, robbed and abducted by unidentified gunmen near Pulau Langgun, Langkawi, two days ago.

Kedah police chief Zainal Abidin Kasim said the PPM received information that fishermen in the waters of Teluk Palam were approached by armed men and ordered to enter the waters of a neighbouring country at 8.33am.

Acting on the information, the PPM launched a rescue operation which spotted two boats belonging to the armed men and apprehended the four Thai nationals.

Suphawat was confident that everything would be resolved, with the three Thai policemen and deputy village headman freed and returned to their families soon.

During last night’s meeting, he said, the Malaysian officials suggested that the Thai authorities write an official letter requesting the release of their nationals and for their return to Thailand.

The Malaysian officials, according to him, would speed up the repatriation process of the four Thai men.

The Satun police said Suphawat would continue with the investigation and had suspended seven policemen, including the three currently being held by the Malaysian authorities, for alleged involvement in the robbery near Pulau Langgun.

The three Thai policemen and the deputy village head are being detained in Kedah and their firearms have been confiscated.

“Everything will be done in accordance with the law. If they (the Thai policemen) have not committed any wrongdoing, they will get back their jobs. This process will take some time because it is a sensitive issue,” said Suphawat.