Conflicting Accounts Over Alleged Robbery in Langkawi Waters

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By Mohd Haikal Mohd Isa

BANGKOK, Aug 21 (Bernama) -- Conflicting accounts have emerged over what happened in the waters near Pulau Langgun in Langkawi two days ago where Malaysian authorities allege an armed robbery took place.

The Thai side claimed that the three Satun policemen and a deputy village headmen who were arrested by the Malaysian authorities were merely carrying out their duty in stopping foreign fishermen from trespassing in Thailand waters.

"Both sides (Malaysia and Thailand) have their own claims, but we will talk about them (the claims from both sides) later. For now, we want the people (four Malaysians and four Thais) to return to their families for Hari Raya (Eid al-Adha)," Satun governor Pattanapon Rattanapichetchai said to Bernama Tuesday.

He said investigations into finding which side was at fault in the incident would take time and could mean all the men currently detained by Thai and Malaysian authorities would be unable to celebrate Eid al-Adha on Wednesday with their loved ones.

Both sides said the governor needed to talk to each other after Eid al-Adha to resolve the matter, said the governor. 

As a result of a meeting between Thai and Malaysian officials chaired by Pattanapon Monday, four of the Malaysian fishermen held at the Satun police station were released by Thai authorities at about 11 pm (midnight in Malaysia) on Monday and returned to Langkawi.

The Thai side hopes that Malaysian authorities would reciprocate their gesture and release the three policemen and the deputy village headman currently being held in Langkawi.

Monday's meeting, according to him, went very well, with both sides supporting each other’s efforts in resolving the matter and preventing it from escalating.

The Malaysian authorities, according to him, wanted to find measures through the establishment of a committee where both sides could discuss any issue in areas such as human trafficking, drugs and illegal fishing.

The meeting also agreed for both sides to meet more often and discuss issues regularly, said Pattanapon.

Despite the claim by Malaysian authorities of a robbery, the Thai side countered it and claimed that a group of seven policemen, along with the Tanjung Po village headman and his deputy, were patrolling waters near Koh Sam (Pulau Tiga) to deter trespassing foreign fishermen.

The patrol party tried to apprehend the trespassing foreign fishermen when the Malaysian authorities arrived and detained the three Satun policemen and deputy village headman for alleged robbery.

They were taken to Langkawi for questioning and their three pistols were confiscated, while the four Malaysian fishermen detained by the Thai authorities were transferred to Satun.

The seven policemen, including the three currently detained in Langkawi, have since been suspended from duty pending an official investigation, Satun Police chief Maj Gen Supphawat Tapkiew said to Bernama.