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Thai navy opens submarine center, but lacks subs

July 7, 2014

BANGKOK (AP) — Thailand’s navy inaugurated a state-of-the-art headquarters and training center for its submarine squadron on Monday, even though it has no subs to command.

The squadron and its facilities, including a submarine simulator from Germany, were established at an existing naval base in Sattahip, east of Bangkok on the Gulf of Thailand.

The navy, which has had no submarines in its fleet since 1951, has been seeking for several years to acquire some, but has faced budgetary restraints. It says the new facilities are needed to be prepared for the future. Rear Adm. Panu Punyavirocha, head of the submarine squadron, told the Bangkok Post newspaper last October that the new facilities cost 540 million baht ($17.3 million).

Recent maritime territorial disputes have caused several Asian nations to consider acquiring or expanding submarine fleets.

The military coup that ousted Thailand’s civilian government in May could help expedite the acquisition of some submarines, as the military will in practice administer the country until an election promised for October 2015 at the earliest. The military received a vast increase in its budget after its last coup in 2006, a move that drew some criticism from the press and public.

In 2011, Thailand negotiated to buy six small used submarines from Germany for 7.7 billion baht ($260 million), but let the deal expire. It then considered buying two larger new submarines from South Korea for 40 billion baht ($1.35 billion), but no deal was concluded. The navy has sent submarine personnel for training in both Germany and South Korea.

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