11 July 2024

The Thai and US navies will launch a joint operation on February 21, to explore the sunken Sukhothai corvette, to destroy the remaining ammunition and, if possible, salvage the ship, Admiral Adung Phan-iam, the commander-in-chief of the Royal Thai Navy, said today.

The ship sank off the coast of Prachuap Khiri Khan on the night of December 19, 2022. Of the 106 officers and men on board, 24 died and 75 were rescued. Five naval officers are still unaccounted for after extensive searches.

Admiral Adung said that the RTN wanted to salvage the ship by itself, but could not because it lacks the necessary equipment and has had to seek help from the US navy, after the RTN was reminded by the US of its commitment, under the military sale agreement, that all the ammunition on board the Sukhothai must be destroyed.

The exploration and salvage operation is timed to take place during the annual Cobra Gold exercise, involving Thailand, the US and some other allies.

Admiral Adung said that there are two tasks yet to be completed. Five missing naval officers are still unaccounted for and material evidence must be secured to determine the exact cause of the ship’s sinking, which will put an end to the case.

He said that all the ammunition belonging to the US and to the RTN, which may pose a danger, will be destroyed.

The admiral admitted that the RTN has been bombarded with many questions pertaining to the ill-fated Sukhothai corvette, including why the RTN has not salvaged the vessel.

He offered an assurance of transparency, saying that the media will be invited to witness the launch of the operation, including the undersea operation, and the public will be informed of the progress.