Officials deny Myanmar sunk Thai trawler

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs on Sunday denied reports that a Myanmar naval patrol boat had fired on and sunk one of two Thai trawlers that intruded into Myanmar territory on Friday, saying the sinking of the vessel was an accident.

In a statement in Thai posted on its website, the ministry said it had checked with the 25th Infantry Regiment Task Force about the July 11 incident and was told that the sinking of the Thai trawler was not caused by action carried out by Myanmar navy personnel.

In fact, the sinking occurred when the Myanmar patrol boat came alongside one of the two Thai trawlers that had 19 Myanmar nationals and a Thai on board to make an arrest, and this caused a "suction" between the two vessels which sank the trawler.

After the incident, the Myanmar sailors helped the trawler’s crew and contacted their Thai counterparts to help take care of the situation. 

The Thai navy asked Myanmar authorities for permission to enter their waters to salvage the Thai fishing boat and their request was granted Sunday.    

The incident took place about 1.5 nautical miles into Myanmar waters and the 20 crew on the trawler were unharmed, according to the statement. (Story continues below)

Earlier reports said a Myanmar naval patrol boat had fired upon and sunk a Thai fishing trawler and towed another boat away after they strayed into Myanmar waters off Ranong.

The incident was said to have taken place about 10 nautical miles west of Koh Chang off Ranong province, said Vice-Admiral Tharathorn Kajitsuwan, the Third Naval Area commander.

He said the Myanmar naval patrol craft No. 566 chased the two fishing boats after they intruded 1.5 nautical miles into Myanmar waters. The larger trawler was fired at and sank while the other trawler was towed to a nearby island belonging to Myanmar.

Twenty crewmen from the stricken boat jumped into the water but the Myanmar navy did not arrest them. They were later rescued by another fishing boat and a Thai naval patrol boat picked them up.

The boats belong to Warapol Dangkong who owns the Jor Kongsin fish pier in Bang Rin sub-district of Muang Ranong district.

Vice-Adm Tharathorn said the fishermen mistakenly believed that high winds and waves would keep the Myanmar patrol boat ashore, so they decided to take their chances on fishing in Myanmar waters. They went ahead despite a warning from the Third Naval Area commander not to do so.

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