ABOVE: Adm. Narong Pipathanasai presides over the Sattahip Naval Base’s new base for submarines it still doesn’t have on July 7, 2014. Photo: Royal Thai Navy
For nearly seven decades the Royal Thai Navy has maintained an active submarine division despite the fact it has no submarines. Last year it completed a state-of-the-art, THB540-million base to serve as the home for all of the submarines it doesn’t have.
That joke may soon lose its punchline, as the Royal Thai Navy has formally requested something it should have a long time ago, the purchase of some submarines.
In an attempt to strengthen the armed forces, prove his submarine division is not merely for show and not be outdone by the likes of Thailand’s sub-possessing neighbors, Adm. Kraisorn Chansuvanich said he’s hopeful the cabinet will approve his request.
“Neighboring countries like Vietnam, Malaysia, Indonesia, and Singapore have had submarines in their arsenals for many years,” Kraisorn said in a Khaosod English report. “Now that I am here, I think it is a part of the strategy to improve our armed forces. It’s my duty to submit the request to the government for consideration. Whether the government will approve it or not is up to them.”
Kraisorn might be modest in his assessment, given the current government is somewhat military-friendly.
The request comes a week after Navy brass said thanks-but-no-thanks to buying Chinese-made subs, dissent the admiral played down. He said that he’s cool with whoever makes them, so long as they meet Thailand’s needs and the navy has the same toys as its neighbors.
Should the request be approved, putting them in service would likely take five or six years due to outfitting them and training personnel to use them, meaning for now the submarine division can only dream of doing actual submarine division stuff.
Thailand’s fleet once did include submarines. They were decommissioned in 1951 along with most naval assets after the navy lost a power struggle against the army. In the so-called Manhattan Rebellion, naval officers attempted a counter-coup to seize power from the army which had early seized power. The army-led government therefore emasculated the branch by taking away its submarines, planes and armaments, leaving the Royal Thai Navy a crippled shell of its former self.