“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.
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.)