Chaicharn grilled over warship’s sinking

An investigation has been launched into why there were not enough life jackets onboard the Royal Thai Navy warship that capsized on Sunday, with six people confirmed dead and many more still missing, Deputy Defence Minister Chaicharn Changmongkol said.

Gen Chaicharn, representing Prime Minister and Defence Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha, was grilled on Thursday by MPs in parliament over the deadly tragedy.

Nattacha Boonchaiinsawat, a Move Forward Party MP, asked why

was put to sea despite the terrible weather conditions and whether a weather forecast from the Meteorological Department was taken into account before it set sail.

“I also wonder whether there were enough life jackets for crew members on board,” he said. “Who will take responsibility for the losses of personnel and the loss their families are experiencing?”

In response, Gen Chaicharn admitted the cause of the ship’s sinking is still not known. He said once the ship went down, the matter was reported to Gen Prayut, who instructed the navy to rescue HTMS Sukhothai‘s crew members straight away.

He said the navy assessed the weather based on a Meteorological Department forecast before heading out. The crew had also regularly carried out emergency drills, he added.

“A probe has also been launched to find out whether there was sufficient life-saving equipment on board to have an explanation for the public,” he said. He said HTMS Sukhothai underwent a refit between 2018 and 2020 before it was put back into service last year.

HTMS Sukhothai sank on Sunday night about 20 nautical miles off the coast of Prachuap Khiri Khan with 105 crew on board. Navy spokesman Adm Pokkrong Monthatpalin said it was on patrol off Bang Saphan district when it was battered by rough seas and strong winds.

The ship listed sharply and took on water, which damaged its electrical systems and caused the engines to fail, he said, adding without power, the corvette listed even further and eventually capsized.

According to the navy, of the 105 crew members on board the corvette when it went down, 82 had been found as of yesterday. Six were found dead, and 23 were still missing, it said.

The navy tweeted yesterday that a body was found in the sea near Cape Sui and Koh Set in Surat Thani’s Chaiya district. The body was sent for identification, it said.

Yesterday evening, Vice Admiral Pichai Lorchusakul, commander of the First Naval Area Command, said that initial analysis concluded the body was not that of a sailor.