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Officials will be charged for not performing duty over Phoenix disaster, national police deputy commander confirms

HUKET: Officials will be charged for not performing their duty over the Phoenix tour boat disaster in July last year that killed 47 tourists, Royal Thai Police Deputy Commander Gen Rungroj Saengkram has confirmed to The Phuket News.

By The Phuket News

Saturday 2 March 2019, 04:43PM

The ’Phoenix’ is pictured at the Rattanachai Shipyard, east of Phuket Town. Photo: Supplied

The ’Phoenix’ is pictured at the Rattanachai Shipyard, east of Phuket Town. Photo: Supplied

“The police investigation into the Phoenix has been completed,” Gen Rungroj told The Phuket News yesterday (Mar 1).

“All reports have been handed to local police and the Public Prosecutor’s Office already,” added Gen Rungroj, who has been tasked with overseeing the investigation into Thailand’s worst maritime disaster in modern history.

Gen Rungroj declined to reveal the main conclusions of the investigation but did confirm that two officials will be charged for their part in the disaster.

“The officials will be charged for not performing their duty,” Gen Rungroj said, adding that the officials to face legal action were both based in Bangkok.

Gen Rungroj also declined to confirm whether the officials were from the Marine Department, and also said that he was unable to recall the names when called by The Phuket News.

Gen Rungroj in November confirmed his suspicions of the registration documents for the boat, which Gen Surachate Hakparn – who was Deputy Chief of the national Tourist Police at the time (and who is now the Immigration Bureau Chief) – revealed within days after the disaster, contained “only four to five pages of structural diagrams, instead of the usual 60 to 70 pages”.

“I agree with Gen Surachate that this is important to the case, and Gen Surachate will be working together with us in the investigation,” Gen Runroj said.

“I know there are only four to five pages of plans (for the boat), which is suspicious because a boat like this is supposed to have more than that, about 70 pages. I have openly shared my thoughts about this and that it looks strange,” he added. (See story here.)

Wiwat Chitchertwong, currently serving as the Acting Director of the Phuket Marine Office (installed as the Phuket Marine Chief immediately after the disaster), also explained in November, “All designs for the Phoenix – and for every boat – are required by regulation by the Ship Standard Registration Bureau of the Marine Department.

“The Phoenix was not registered or approved by the Phuket Marine Office. This boat was approved by the Ship Standard Registration Bureau in Bangkok,” Mr Wiwat pointed out, though without explaining whether or not the Phuket Marine Office physically inspected the boat.

Asked specifically who signed the approval to register the boat, Mr Wiwat in November said, “I don’t know.”

Meanwhile, lawyer Nalin Intarasombat confirmed to The Phuket News yesterday that 26-year-old Phuket resident Woralak ‘Yui’ Rerkchaikarn – the main shareholder in TC Blue Dream Co Ltd, the Thai company that owns the Phoenix – remains in custody at Phuket Prison while awaiting the charge of recklessness causing death to be formally presented in court.

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Woralak has been detained behind bars since August last year after the court denied her bail.

“The court trial starts at the end of April with the examination of witnesses, and the full trial will be in May this year.” Ms Nalin said yesterday.

Ms Nalin and her father Nipit Intarasombat, who is co-legal counsel for Woralak, have already explained to the press that Woralak intends to fight the charge against her.

“We are confident that this boat is legal. On that day, it was a severe storm that was a critical factor in the accident.

“We will fight all charges in court, and please let the court decide who is guilty,” Mr Nipit said. (See story here.)

However, Gen Rungroj and Gen Surachate have both already confirmed that Woralak, as well as the Phoenix captain and the boat’s engineer, are to be charged with recklessness causes death and injury to others – and that shareholders in TC Blue Co Ltd also face charges of ang-yee (operating an illegal secret organisation).

“From our investigation, we found that TC Blue Co Ltd is the owner of the Phoenix tour boat and that 26-year-old Phuket resident Woralak ‘Yui’ Rerkchaikarn is a shareholder in that company,” Gen Surachate said in November.

“However, we have also found that Woralak’s husband, Chinese national Lei Hou, is the real owner of TC Blue Co Ltd and that Jakkapan Rerkchaikarn and Yindee Rerkchaikarn are also shareholders, but Woralak is a major shareholder,” Gen Surachate explained.

“Investigating officers have discovered from financial records that TC Blue Co Ltd is a nominee company set up for Lei Hou.

“All those involved with TC Blue Co Ltd are now also facing charges of ang-yee as it is clear that they are running the company illegally for a foreigner,” he added.

The Phoenix’s captain Somjing Boontham, boat engineer Onchan Kanhayotee and Woralak are to be charged with recklessness causing injury and death to others, Gen Surachate confirmed. (See story here.)




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Rorri_2 | 06 March 2019 - 05:40:02

"Would you refer to a 26 yo male as a "boy" yes, I often go out for a drink with the "boys," ever feminists call it a "boys club."

Rorri_2 | 06 March 2019 - 05:37:07

"When will people stop calling a fully grown, 26 yo woman as "girl," so no more "girls" nights out, or going out with the "girls, or no more "older" girlfriends... go peddle your rubbish elsewhere, political correctness has gone crazy.

christysweet | 05 March 2019 - 16:25:51

Incidentally, I was driving on the west coast road the exact time that boat sank and it was  extreme weather and most certainly the cause. Why was the boat out is the question as the weather had been forecast. 

christysweet | 05 March 2019 - 16:22:01

When will people stop calling a fully grown, 26 yo woman as "girl"? Would you refer to a 26 yo male as a "boy"? It's as sexist, as belittling as it gets to refer to women as children.

Kurt | 05 March 2019 - 14:48:14

By not knowing anything Mr Wiwat already 'checked out' conveniently . I guess to early. Because if Phuket was 'Homeport' of the Phoenix, then Phuket Marine Office is involved. Mr Wiwat's Marine Office must have records of safety inspections of the Phoenix. The Phoenix was not a long tail boat! It was a not sea worthy operational vessel, 'under' Phuket Marine Office juri...

Kurt | 05 March 2019 - 14:28:38

The recknessless of the captain is very clear/obvious.  But that of the engineer is not clear to me. He was not in command, just a crew member who has to follow captain's orders.The ships disaster and the company administrative setting, registering, etc. ( with or without fraud) are actually 2 different cases. Should be handled in 2 court cases.

DeKaaskopp | 04 March 2019 - 22:12:24

As the real owner is her husband,as stated in the article,he not sold her down the river with a hefty brown envelope.And as a major shareholder she is definitely partly responsible and not only a scapegoat.

BenPendejo | 04 March 2019 - 17:48:53

Poor Khun Woralak is gonna take the bulk of the hit on this. And yeah, as if a 26 year old Thai girl in a business arrangement with a rich Chinese bloke had any serious decision making responsibility. Chinese guy probably sold her down the river with a hefty brown envelope, and now the police are waiting to see what sized envelopes come in to decide who loses the designated scapegoat contest.

Kurt | 03 March 2019 - 12:59:17

Wonder which 2 Officials will become scapegoats. perhaps 2 who are just retired and get a reprimand. There must be more Officials involved during building this vessel, checking on the construction, and issued sea worthy certificates. 'Many departments involve', is what the thai always say, in order the spread the responsibility. Making able to say: " it is him, not me".

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