Home' Work Boat World : August 2010 Contents The case of the 'Ekawat Nava 5'
But the most outrageous act by the Indian Navy was the
deliberate sinking of one of Khun Wicharn's trawlers in
November 2009 in the Gulf of Aden.
The 'Ekawat Nava 5' was traveling from Oman to Yemen when
pirates hijacked it about 50km off the Yemeni coast. It was early
morning when the captain reported to his shore office that the
boat was being taken by Somali pirates and the office reported to
the International Maritime Bureau piracy centre in Kuala Lumpur,
Malaysia, which, in turn, notified the coalition forces patrolling
the region and other military agencies in the area, and distributed
photos of the hostage vessel to assure safe passage.
Khun Wicharn and his staff had been following the progress of
the vessel with their tracking system. The vessel's transmitter had
continued to function after the hijacking. They had also given the
code to their system to the piracy centre in Malaysia. The British
patrol boats explained that they could not do much until the
pirates reached their base and notified authorities with the ransom
demands. It was estimated that the boat would take about five days
to reach the pirates' Somali base. But on the evening of the first
day the signal disappeared.
"We thought that the pirates might have found the transmitter
and cut the wire," Khun Wicharn recalled, "but then the next
morning we heard the proud report from the Indian Navy that
they had sunk a pirate mother ship. They released a photo showing
a vessel with the superstructure on fire. They claimed that it had
fired on them first."
There was a crew of 15 on the fishing boat: 14 Thais and one
Cambodian fisherman. Khun Wicharn and his people were in
shock and waited for more information.
Then six days later, their Yemeni office got a call that a ship
had picked up an injured man from the sea who did not speak
English. He turned out to be the Cambodian crewman and the
only survivor. He told a very different story from that of the
"He said that our boat was hijacked by the Somali pirates in the
morning and they forced the Captain to move the vessel toward
Somalia. Later in the afternoon, there was an unknown navy ship
that came on them. When the pirates saw them, they forced the
crew to line up along the bulwarks as a human shield. This forced
the navy ship to leave the boat but they still followed behind.
When it became dark the same navy ship moved in and started
firing on our boat.
"Our crew, realising that they were not to be saved, jumped into
the dark sea. The navy vessel began to fire anyway and set the
superstructure on fire. This corresponded with the location where
the vessel disappeared from the vessel tracker. The pirates jumped
into their fast skiff and raced away with the navy vessel in pursuit.
"Our crew said that an hour later the naval vessel returned and
began firing at our boat again in order to sink it and destroy the
evidence. Somehow the Cambodian crewman, clinging to a bit of
wreckage, was the only one to survive to tell the tale."
"We had ignored the news released by the Indian navy because
we were misled by the location of the vessel that was sunk by
them. They mentioned that the location was 285 nautical miles
[527km] south west of Salalah (Oman) whereas our vessel was
about 30 nautical miles [55.5km] from the Yemeni coast.
"But after our Cambodian crewman told the story, we plotted on
the navigation chart the last location where the vessel disappeared
from the vessel tracker. It corresponded with the location where the
vessel disappeared and not the 285 nautical miles [527km] south
west of Salalah (Oman) as claimed by the Indian Navy."
Khun Wicharn personally visited the Thai fishermen's families
in northeast Thailand with the sad news.
He continues to seek appropriate reparations for their loss.
"The boat was registered in Kirabati and they are not prepared
to take on the case themselves so we are trying to get them to
authorise us to act on their behalf," he said. "But we have had no
luck. As for the Thai government, which lost 14 citizens in the
attack, there has been no interest in taking up the cause of their
Frustrations in Indonesia:
Ethical fishing thwarted by "Official Pirates"!
Frustration, as much as anger, marks Khun Wicharn's
relations with Indonesia. In the 1990s, his company fished in
their waters but since the death of an Indonesian friend who
could intervene for him when trouble came up, he no longer
fishes those waters. Other Thai fishing companies are bringing
their vessels back as well.
"Even though you have a legal fishing permit, the Indonesian
Navy will look through their binoculars at your vessel's name then
look up the owner in the registry. Soon the owner will get a note
saying that their vessel would be arrested unless a payment was
made to specified bank account," he explained. "We call these the
But even transiting Indonesian waters in the internationally
recognised Straits of Malacca can be dangerous for Sirichai
Khun Wicharn demonstrates an obstinate refusal to
acknowledge corruption and he is persistent in his attempts to
hold the judiciary to a positive ethical standard. When the
Indonesian government charged one of his fishing boats with
fishing in Indonesian waters on February 23, 2009 at the northern
entrance to the Straits of Malacca, he refused to pay a bribe and
agreed to see them in court.
The carefully researched and prepared documents for his
defence ran to hundreds of pages. All of Khun Wicharn's fleet is
equipped with vessel tracking technology that reports the vessel's
location every half-hour to the shore based office. He took these
records to the court to show his ship was on a steady course
travelling at a steady seven knots. This is far too fast for trawl
fishing. The tracking shows that only when they were stopped by
the navy patrol boat and escorted to an Indonesian port did they
come near the shore.
Further, the navy claimed that the vessel had been fishing
because it had a wet net on deck. Khun Wicharn countered that
August 2010 WORK BOAT WORLD
One of the series of explosions that took place following the reckless,
brutal and cowardly shelling of an innocent, distressed fishing boat by an
The reefer 'Al Kawser' was arrested by the Indian Coast Guard while in
transit from Yemen to Thailand -- for "illegal fishing", she is a cargo ship
with absolutely no fishing gear onboard. Her "arrest" would have been
cancelled had her owner paid the US$ 250,000 bribe demanded
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