Fishermen Freed

Forty Four fishermen – seven Thais and 37 Burmese – held hostage by Somalia pirates since April last year, have returned to Thailand after their ordeal.

The Thai naval ship “Longlom” yesterday guided the Prantalay 11 fishing vessel with the crewmen on board into port. The crew members, some suffering minor injuries and bruises to their faces, were met by relatives and officials.

The men, captured by Somali pirates on April 18 last year, were rescued by the Indian navy after a brief exchange of gunfire with Somali pirates last month.

Prantalay 11 skipper Khanit Torpradit, 51, thanked everyone involved in their rescue, particularly Indian and Thai naval authorities and consular offices.

He said he and the other crewmen felt they had been given a new lease of life. Of the 44 crewmen, 24 were from his vessel.

Phochai Prombuapa, skipper of another boat, the Prantalay 14, said he did not think he would survive the clashes between the Indian navy and the Somali pirates.

He said the pirates had used Thai and Burmese crewmen as shields during the shootout, while the Prantalay 14 was sunk by gunfire.

Songsaeng Pathapanich, owner of the Prantalay ships hijacked by the pirates, said his vessels had left for Djibouti, which neighbours Somalia, with a total of 77 crewmen on April 7 last year. His company had been granted a concession to fish in that country’s waters.

The pirates captured his vessels in the Arabian Sea before they were apprehended by the Indian navy, Mr Songsaeng said.

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