Thai ship and suspect human cargo nears Canada
Online news: World
Published: 12/08/2010 at 05:27 AM
A Thai ship involved in human trafficking was reported Thursday to be inside Canadian waters and closing on the shore, with 500 Tamil refugees from Sri Lanka aboard.
A tortuous voyage by the Thai-registered Harin Panich 19, under a new name, M/V Sun Sea, was believed organised from Bangkok by operatives of the Tamil Tigers.
In a report late Thursday Thailand time, Canadian media reported that the ship was being escorted by the Canadian navy into British Columbia. “We expect it will land either late Thursday evening or early Friday morning,” (Friday Thailand time), the website Canada.com quoted a senior official as saying.
The Toronto Star reported on Wednesday that officials believe many of the Tamils are suffering from tuberculosis. In addition, reports say at least one of the passengers has died during the voyage.
The purpose of the voyage is unknown, as are most details, including the recent background of the ship, built and originally owned by the Harin Group, which has its head office in Bangkholeam district along New Road, Bangkok.
The Sri Lankan government has warned that the passengers include terrorists from the Tamil Tigers, and Canada reportedly has taken the warning seriously. Canada lists the Tamil Tigers as a terrorist organisation.
The ship was reported to be involved in clandestine operations last May, and the Thai Navy put out an alert across the region, asking other countries to help to locate the Harin Panich 19, aka M/V Sun Sea.
The 30-year-old, 900-tonne vessel was built at the Harin Panich Shipyard on the Chao Phraya River near Bangkok. For most of the time since 1980, the 59-metre vessel carried general cargo between Thailand other countries in the region, especially Malaysian Borneo and Singpore.
It is not known when or how it was obtained by human traffickers for the desperate voyage of the reported cargo of some 500 Tamils. A company-provided list shows the MV Harin Panich 19 in a berth at Songkhla since last March 24.
But about the time the Thai Navy was looking for the ship, in mid-May, the Harin Panich 19 aka Sun Sea was reported to be approaching Australia with 200 Tamils aboard.
The Australians turned the ship around in international waters. After that, it apparently went to another country – perhaps even back to Thailand – to take on more Tamil passengers.
According to the Canadian media, Tamil Tigers organised the voyage of the ship. The terrorist group frequently used Thailand as a convenient base for questionable activities during the war against the Colombo government.
Canada's territorial waters extend 22 kilometres off the coast, and the ship is expected within this distance by Friday morning or afternoon, the Canadian media have reported.
In 2006 Canada outlawed the Tamil Tigers as a terrorist group.
Critics do not want to see Canadas Immigration policy being circumvented this way. All others must apply from their homeland and wait. These individuals are arriving unauthorized and waiting to claim refugee status.
Another 76 Sii Lankan migrants landed on the British Colombia coast last October in a separate human trafficking operation. Canadian immigration has released all 76 while their refugee claims are processed.