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Thai-Indonesian Relations

Three Thais arrested in connection to killings of Indonesian officers

Police yesterday arrested three Thai fishermen allegedly involved in the murders of two Indonesian naval officers earlier this month.

The suspects - identified as Suriwong Cheuhom, 37, Sriprai Suwanprapa, 41, and Sorasit So-in, 36 - were presented at the press conference along with a hammer and a knife allegedly used as the murder weapons.

The three men reportedly expressed remorse and claimed that the captain of the fishing boat, who remains at large, ordered them to kill the naval officers.

They also said that at the time they were not sure that the two victims were really officers, because they used a civilian vessel, not a naval boat.

Police earlier announced that they had obtained arrest warrants for the 12 crewmembers of the Thai fishing boat, relating to charges of violating the Thai Immigration Act. The fishermen left the country without permission, assistant national police chief Pol Lt Gen Chakthip Chaichinda alleged yesterday.

Chakthip said the investigation into the alleged killings has progressed, but the fact-finding probe would need a few more days.

Forensic tests will be necessary to check the Indonesian naval personnel's DNA and evidence found on board the Thai trawler, he added.

Songkhla Police chief Pol Maj Gen Ekkapop Prasittiwattanachai said on Wednesday that police were not yet able to file murder charges because they had not located the two officers' bodies, and were still waiting for DNA samples to compare with those found on the trawler.

8 men believed to be involved

Meanwhile, caretaker Foreign Minister Surapong Tovichakchaikul quoted Chakthip as reporting that the investigation found that eight of the 12 fishermen were suspected to be involved in the killings.

He said Indonesia would let justice run its course in Thailand. Should Jakarta request extradition, Thai authorities would grant the request later.

Surapong called on Thai operators to abide by the law when fishing in international waters, including ensuring that migrant workers were licensed, and to cooperate with Indonesian officials' inspections.

Surapong explained that Indonesia had not closed its waters to fishing boats as a result of the alleged killings, but would be stricter about enforcing laws.

He said he would meet the Indonesian foreign minister today(March 28) to report on the police investigation's progress and to ask Indonesian authorities to accommodate Thai trawlers in its waters.

While there has been no official announcement of Indonesian waters being closed, Thai fishing operators reportedly have not dared to enter such waters since the alleged killings, fearing for their safety. This has affected the Thai fisheries industry and related activities.


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