The Thai Embassy blasted a private cruise line as “nonprofessional and substandard” in response to allegations that authorities in Thailand had refused entry to 242 Cambodian passengers aboard the vessel in December, according to a letter released Monday night.
Thai Ambassador to Cambodia Viraphand Vacharathit sent the letter to Foreign Affairs Minister Hor Namhong in response to demands that Thailand explain and investigate allegations that the Cambodian passengers of the Jupiter Cruise liner were denied entry to the Thai resort town of Pattaya on Dec 25.
Passengers of other nationalities were allowed off the vessel.
The ship, on its maiden voyage, left Sihanoukville on Dec 24 and returned Dec 26. It spent only a few hours off the coast of Pattaya, according to the Thai Embassy letter.
The six-page letter dated March 8, which contains 109 pages of supporting annexes, claims that Thai officials relaxed rules in order to allow the Cambodians off the ship and to enter Pattaya.
“The preparation, arrangement, handling and management of this trip could not be assumed in any other way but as non-professional and substandard,” the letter states.
It also lists a series of instances where the Jupiter Cruise liner, owned by Lam and Brother Company, didn’t follow proper docking procedure. For example, the 242 Cambodian passengers on board the ship were listed as crew members.
The letter states that among other irregularities the ship only notified Thai authorities of its arrival four hours in advance instead of several months as is normal with a large ship. And the notification declared the intention of the voyage to be “route training” with its purpose in Thailand to refill fresh water.
The letter also suggests that accusations that Thai officials referred to the Preah Vihear conflict or the Khmer Rouge as a reason for not allowing the Cambodian passengers entry to Thailand were falsehoods created by Lam and Brother to distract angry passengers from the company’s poor performance.
Kamrob Palawatwichai, first secretary of the Thai Embassy said Tuesday, that 21 Vietnamese nationals, who disembarked from the ship, were listed as passengers so the procedure to allow them entry involved passports, making their permission to disembark more obvious.
Soth Sophin, deputy director of Lam and Brother company, denied that Cambodians were allowed entry and said he had not seen the Thai letter. A Vietnamese Australian owns the company, he said.
“Based on my captain, the Thai would not allow us entry to Thailand,” he said Tuesday. “The Thai allegations are not correct.”
He said the ship is still docked in Sihanoukville, and the bad publicity from the Thai ordeal has made scheduling a new voyage difficult.
(Additional reporting by Phann Ana.)