Naval Strategies: How Royal Thai Navy operates to fight Maritime Crimes

Naval Strategies: How Royal Thai Navy operates to fight Maritime Crimes
  • PublishedApril 27, 2023

The Royal Thai Navy has served to protect the interests of Thai citizens for over 100 years. Despite how recent the naval branch of their country’s military is, Thailand has a surprisingly long history of combat and stabilization through naval warfare. In the modern day, the Royal Thai Navy commits itself to fighting maritime crimes like human trafficking and piracy through aggressive naval enforcement.

This strategy has persisted and helped to stabilize the region since their navy was established. While combat remains the most notable arm of the Royal Thai Navy, the branch has proved itself to be surprisingly future-minded through its numerous international collaborations and future-minded focus on the preservation of Thailand’s marine ecology.

History of the Royal Thai Navy

While the Royal Thai Navy was established in 1906, Thailand has a long history of naval warfare. In fact, Thailand has used warships and a strong naval force to protect and hold control of the Chao Phraya River for hundreds of years. Evidence also suggests that Thailand possessed a formidable naval presence long before the Royal Thai Navy was established. One of the most notable incidents occurred in 1769, when King Taksin commanded over 15,000 troops, 200 warships, and 150 marine vessels to seize Nakhon Si Thammarat during his conquest to reunify Siam.

The development of the Royal Thai Navy substantially increased during the reign of King Rama V. Notably, he led a 15-year project to construct numerous new warships and to expand Thailand’s naval forces. Expansion became the priority of Thailand’s naval military sector.

Vice Admiral and Chief of Staff for the Royal Siamese Navy Phraia Rachawangsan developed Thailand’s next expansion plan in 1926, recommending the establishment of a Coastal Defense Division and Offensive Mobile Division. While the focus of the early Royal Thai Navy was primarily defensive, their forces were mobilized in World War II to support the efforts of the Italian Navy.

Expansion of the Royal Thai Navy largely continued through the latter half of the 20th century. After the conclusion of World War II, Thailand notably expanded its fleet by purchasing surplus naval warfare materials from the United States and United Kingdom. From 1951 to 1956, the Royal Thai Navy completed a five-year modernization plan. The Royal Thai Navy was involved in a failed coup against Prime Minister Plaek Phibunsongkhram in 1951, and later supported South Vietnam with bombardments during the Vietnam War.

How does the Royal Thai Navy fight maritime crime today?

Since it was established, vigilantly fighting against maritime crimes like illegal fishing, piracy, and smuggling has been the mission of the Royal Thai Navy. This mission continues into the modern day. The most significant threat to Thailand’s maritime security is piracy. As a result, many of the most recent developments in Thailand’s naval strategy have been targeted to combat piracy.

The Royal Thai Navy joined an international collaboration with the United Nations to combat pirate attacks against ships carrying Indochinese refugees in the 1970s. And as recently as 2015, the Royal Thai Navy joined the anti-piracy alliance Strait of Malacca Patrols.

The Royal Thai Navy also takes a firm stance in combating illegal fishing. In 2022, the Royal Thai Navy seized two Vietnamese fishing boats that were illegally fishing just 120 nautical miles away from the shore of Songkhla province. This was just one of several illegal fishing incidents that led to arrests, with several dozen boats being intercepted and naval crews charged under the Fisheries Act across the course of the year. Another priority of the Royal Thai Navy is combating human trafficking.

In 2013, the Royal Thai Navy completed intensive internal investigations to address the trafficking of Rohingya refugees into Malaysia, who were allegedly sold as indentured servants and slaves. This led to the prosecution of over 60 officials for human trafficking from 2015 to 2017.

Another important component of Thailand’s naval strategy is fighting to reduce offshore drug smuggling. The Royal Thai Navy has made notable seizures of illegal drugs as recently as 2022, when a large shipment of ecstasy, ketamine, and methamphetamine was seized on the riverbank of the Mekong River.

According to the Thai Royal Navy’s Captain Rakop Thewaprateep, Thailand continues to bolster its anti-smuggling measures in order to combat rising drug trafficking and illegal smuggling. Their efforts are further supported through international collaboration with countries like the United States, which provided over $30,000 of electronic equipment to the Royal Thai Government in 2020 in order to support the fight against marine drug trafficking.

Future of the Royal Thai Navy

The Royal Thai Navy has a bright future in protecting the interests of Thailand and its citizens. They continue to fight against human trafficking, drug smuggling, piracy, and illegal fishing due to their commitment to international collaboration with countries like the United States. It’s not just protecting international and domestic interests that makes up the entirety of their naval strategy, either.

The Royal Thai Navy best communicates its dedication to the future of Thailand through its focus on the country’s ecology and marine wildlife. Through hosting organizations like the Sea Turtle Conversation Center of Ao Dong Tan and enforcing the law of the Fishery Act of 1947, the Royal Thai Navy ensures that Thai citizens will enjoy the fruit of their healthy and intact marine ecology for years to come.

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