Songkhla: Local leaders and civic groups are calling for help funding the removal of 115 Vietnamese fishing vessels seized since 2014 and left unattended in Songkhla Lake ever since.
The number was 152 before 40 vessels in much better condition were auctioned off, leaving these 115 broken boats as a de facto rubbish dump on the lake, said a source, adding they can still be turned into artificial reefs.
Meanwhile, more trawlers are expected to be brought in as the authorities continue cracking down on Vietnamese vessels operating illegally in Thai waters, said the source.
Rungrote Laesup, director of Songkhla's Damrong Tham centre, which receives and handles public complaints and is operated by the Ministry of the Interior, said the ships had become an eyesore spoiling the lake's beauty. All efforts to remove them over the past several years have failed miserably, he noted.
Banchong Nasae, coordinator of the Natural Resources Management by Southern Community Organisations Project, said it launched a project in 2015 to turn the boats into reefs.
It requested funding from various government organisations, including the Southern Border Provinces Administration Centre (SBPAC), he said.
Former SBPAC secretary-general Phanu Uthairat briefly served as the centre's chief and, during a visit to the lake, vowed to allocate a budget to fund the artificial reef project, said Mr Banchong.
That was allocated through the provincial fishery office, which failed to disburse it in time, he said.
A local administrative organisation was later denied a new budget after it sought 1 million baht per vessel when the cost of turning them into artificial reefs is just 30,000 baht apiece, he added.