Thailand Hosts Display of ASEAN Naval Firepower

Wilawan Watcharasakwet
171117-TH-ship-620.jpg Thai Navy officers stand in formation as the Russian RFS Admiral Panteleyev prepares to moor at Chuk Samed Port in Sattahip Naval Base in Thailand’s Chonburi province, Nov. 17, 2017.
Defense Ministry Secretariat office/Royal Thai Navy

Thailand will play host to a parade of Southeast Asia’s naval firepower Sunday as warships from the region gather for the first time for a fleet review aimed at celebrating 50 years of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), organizers said.

More than 40 modern ships, including 26 from the Southeast Asian region, will be on display Sunday for the International Fleet Review around Pattaya Bay in Chonburi province, 84 km (53 miles) southeast of Bangkok, event officials said.

“This is the first time that navies from 10 ASEAN countries would gather for a multilateral exercise,” Adm. Luechai Ruddit, deputy commander-in-chief of the Royal Thai Navy told a news conference last week. “This is a very important exercise to learn and get to know each other.”

Battleships representing the United States, Russia, China and South Korea will also participate, organizers said.

ASEAN, which recorded U.S. $2.2 trillion in regional trade last year, was formed in Bangkok on Aug. 8, 1967 with Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore and Thailand as founding members. It has since expanded to include Brunei, Cambodia, Myanmar, Laos and Vietnam.

The fleet review highlights the 10-day naval event that began on Nov. 13 and will include bilateral meetings of ASEAN naval commanders, during which officials will share ideas on improving capabilities and discuss regional security threats.

“This is a very important platform for all navy chiefs to play their key roles and express their concern on the new threats that the region is facing at the moment,” Luechai said.

He said the meetings will help participants solve “big problems, such as the increasing illegal actions in ocean borders that is more complicated nowadays.”

Luechai did not elaborate, but he made his comments a month after Malaysia, Indonesia and the Philippines launched trilateral air patrols to bolster a three-month-old joint maritime effort to rid their shared borders of threats from extremists linked to the Islamic State (IS).

Officials said the trilateral arrangement was similar to the Malacca Straits Patrol, a joint initiative among Malaysia, Thailand, Singapore and Indonesia in the Straits of Malacca that resulted in a sharp drop in piracy.

In late October, the Philippine government declared an end to a five-month battle against IS-backed militants in the southern city of Marawi, during which 930 militants, 165 soldiers and policemen and 47 civilians were killed.

Philippine government officials said even though the military wrested Marawi city from IS militants after a hard-fought battle that included aerial bombings, the militant group remains a threat that can be contained only through greater regional cross-border cooperation.

Thai’s military leadership said the exercises will benefit its participants.

“This is to show that all navies in ASEAN countries could work together well with other allies,” Lt. Gen. Weerachon Sukhonthapatipak told reporters last week. “This would reflect our determination that we would like to promote Southeast Asian as the sea of peace and the sea of the cooperation to benefit to all people in ASEAN and our friends.”


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