US warns Thai navy over salvage operations of sunk HTMS Sukhothai

Picture courtesy of Bangkok Post

The Royal Thai Navy (RTN) received a second warning from the Joint United States Military Advisory Group Thailand (Jusmagthai) over salvage operations on the US-built HTMS Sukhothai, which sank in the Gulf of Thailand back in 2022. This information was revealed by Bangkok’s Move Forward Party MP, Chayaphon Satondee, during a parliamentary debate on the 2024 budget bill.

Chayaphon explained that Jusmagthai, the body regulating military trade between Thailand and the US, had expressed concern that the RTN has not yet responded to US queries since the ship went under on December 18, 2022. On December 1, Jusmagthai sent a second letter to the RTN, reminding it to comply with their agreement, following reports that a Thai contractor working with China had been selected to salvage the vessel.

The first letter from Jusmagthai was delivered in January last year, but the RTN has yet to inform the US about the situation. Chayaphon emphasised that the RTN is obliged to secure approval for third-party transfer from the US government for the contractor’s clearance, reported Bangkok Post.

He further added that Jusmagthai cautioned RTN that any failure to do so would be a breach of agreements, potentially affecting foreign military sales between Thailand and the US.

In response, RTN Chief Admiral Adung Phan-iam stated that they are still in the process of sorting things out. However, there is a concern that if the US gets involved in the salvage operation, it could delay the initial schedule set for April. Currently, the navy has identified a successful bidder to retrieve the warship, with a budget of approximately 199 million baht (US$ 5,605,634), pending approval.

In a separate event, ACM Chanon Mungthanya, deputy commander-in-chief, met with Adm John C Aquilino, commander of the US’s Indo-Pacific Command, to bolster military ties. They both agreed to enhance military cooperation, especially in the annual joint Cobra Gold military exercise due in February.

Thailand News

Mitch Connor

Mitch is a Bangkok resident, having relocated from Southern California, via Florida in 2022. He studied journalism before dropping out of college to teach English in South America. After returning to the US, he spent 4 years working for various online publishers before moving to Thailand.

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