The Thai Marine Police would never have imagined, when they spotted the disabled trawler 'Supaporn' drifting off a five-star resort at Racha Island near the international tourist destination of Phuket two days ago, that they would board her to only discover a gruesome tale of mutiny and murder.
When the marine police asked to see the Thai captain - every Thai trawler must have a Thai national in command - the seven man Burmese crew kept silent. Suspicious, the police went below decks where they found blood spattered everywhere in the galley.
The crew confessed almost immediately. They had mutinied two days earlier against what they claimed was the cruelty of Captain Lure and engineer Lek; Lure was killed first with a 'chopper' in the middle of the night and his body thrown overboard. Engineer Lek was killed thereafter.
Two of the crew, 25-year-old Note and 20-year-old Kala, were on their first voyage; they had joined the Supaporn in a small fishing port in Trang province, South of Phuket, about five months ago. Note, who confessed to killing Lure, said that the Burmese were constantly mistreated and abused by the skipper and engineer Lek. Note told investigators later that life was 'a living hell,' adding that all the crew conspired together to get rid of their two tormentors.
Their idea was to kill the two Thais, dump their bodies overboard to the sharks and head for Phuket where the trawler, coming as it did from Trang province, would be little known. They planned to jump overboard and swim ashore when within a couple of hundred metres of the beach near Phuket.
Their plan went horribly awry when, two days after the killings, the Supaporn's engine stopped working when she was off the popular diving resort at Racha Island. Nobody knew how to fix the engine- in what some will say is a case of poetic justice, the men had killed the only man who could have done so. The Burmese could only wait while the Marine Police pulled alongside and boarded to make enquiries, after which the entire grisly tale was soon revealed.
Investigations revealed that Note had picked up an 'all-purpose chopper' around 1am and killed the skipper. Engineer Lek was killed after the Captain's body was thrown overboard.
The gruesome killings of the two senior most members of the Supaporn's complement come amidst renewed concerns about the grim state of affairs in the global fishing industry. The 'Oyung 70' case in New Zealand is still fresh in the minds of many, and the pattern of crew abuse that exists in trawling fleets across the world may mean that the Supaporn's murders- ghastly as they are- may well be repeated elsewhere.