HTMS Sukhothai: Search for bodies, armaments to begin on Feb 21
The Thai and US navies will launch a limited recovery mission for the ill-fated HTMS Sukhothai on February 21, Royal Thai Navy (RTN) commander-in-chief Admiral Adung Phan-iam said on Monday.
Adung said the mission would focus on searching for the bodies of five crewmen still missing after the warship sank off Prachuap Khiri Khan province in December 2022.
He said divers of the two navies would also join hands to destroy US and Thai armaments on the ship to prevent the technologies from being stolen.
The divers would retrieve what they could but the HTMS Sukhothai would be left on the seabed once the mission is completed, Adung said.
The admiral had earlier announced that the RTN would salvage the entire ship as part of the investigation into its sinking.
Adung said he twice chaired a panel tasked with hiring a firm to salvage the ship but the contracts had to be cancelled after the Navy realized the firms lacked know-how.
Adung said the US navy had also warned the RTN twice to destroy its armaments on the ship to prevent theft.
So, the RTN seized the opportunity of the annual Cobra Gold 2024 war games to team up with its US counterpart for a limited recovery mission.
Commissioned by the Thai Navy in June 1987, the US-built HTMS Sukhothai sank during a storm in the Gulf of Thailand on December 18, 2022. High winds and strong waves reportedly caused seawater to flood the warship, prompting the engines to fail. Of the 105 crew on board, 76 were rescued, 24 were found dead and five are missing, presumed dead.
Cobra Gold 2024, an annual multinational military exercise, is scheduled to take place from February 27 to March 10 across the provinces of Lopburi, Chanthaburi, Sa Kaeo, and Rayong.