HTMS Narathiwat arrives at the Sattahip
Two Royal Thai Navy ships that spent 140 days
patrolling waters off Somalia returned to Sattahip last month after an
error-free, and otherwise uneventful, mission.
The HTMS Similan and HTMS Narathiwat arrived at the
Sattahip Naval Base Nov. 28 with much more pomp-and-pageantry than
greeted the navy’s maligned first mission last winter. Unlike the muted
January return of the Similan and HTMS Pattani, last month’s ceremony
was attended by top military officials, including Chief of Defense
Forces Thanasak Patimaprakorn.
Thanasak said the mission would be remembered in
history for the Thai navy’s cooperation with the international task
force working to prevent Somali pirates from operating in the Gulf of
Aden. The mission, he said, showed the world the Thai navy’s talent and
potential and its willingness to participate on the international stage.
The Thai task force deployed 368 men, including a
navy SEAL team and Bell helicopter group. While the Similan, a supply
ship, and the Narathiwat, a battle cruiser, partook in plenty of patrol
missions, they saw little real action.
Navy officials said the ships engaged in 830 ship
escorts, including two Thai fishing boats. The only break from the
routine patrols was one water rescue and just one encounter with actual
In August, the task force thwarted the attempted
hijacking of the MT Namibia II 70 miles off the Yemeni coast. The Thai
Bell helicopter with six crewmen was sent to the Liberian oil tanker,
which was under attack with rocket-propelled grenades. The air forces
drove off the pirates.
The ships just missed another interdiction two days
earlier, when the MV Thor Harmony, a 194-meter bulk carrier operated by
Bangkok’s Thoresen & Co., called for an escort after being frightened by
Somali pirates attacking a nearby oil tanker.
Both navy crewmembers and their families were glad to
be back in Sattahip. Master Sgt. 1st Class Chalerm Noikaew, 32, said the
return was especially thrilling, as it was his first chance to see his
son, who was born while he was away.
Spirits at the ceremony were generally higher across
the board than in January, after the first Somali task force mission was
deemed largely a failure.
That much-ballyhooed first mission managed a dramatic
rescue of 23 crew members of a Thai fishing boat hijacked by Somali
pirates off the coast of Yemen Nov. 3, but failed to free 27 Thai
fishing boat crewmembers hijacked and held hostage since Christmas Eve
2009. They remained hostages until mid-April, three months after first
task force returned home.