In the grand theatre of national defense, where strategy and statecraft dance in a delicate balance, Navy chief Adm Adung Phan-iam stands as a steadfast advocate for an addition that might seem as mysterious and silent as the deep sea itself – submarines. As the helmsman of the navy’s aspirations, Adm Adung voiced his convictions about the paramount role of submarines within the navy’s strategic arsenal.
On the eve of a pivotal second meeting with a special review panel, Adm Adung projected a stance of readiness and openness. The navy, he assured, stands at the ready, prepared to unravel any and all enigmas surrounding the submarine program. With the anticipation of honest, forthright opinions from the panel members, the future course of the submarine project hangs in the balance, stirred by waves of debate and deliberation.
The project, however, hasn’t been sailing on smooth seas. In an unexpected twist, Germany withdrew its offer to supply the diesel engine for the submarine, leaving a gaping void in the project’s progress. In an audacious move, China Shipbuilding & Offshore International Co (CSOC) stepped in with an offer to fill this void with a Chinese-engineered solution.
Amidst the swirling currents, Defence Minister Sutin Klungsang, initially leaning towards shelving the ambitious underwater venture in favor of acquiring another frigate, convened a panel. This assemblage of minds – piloted by his advisor, Gen Somsak Roongsita, and comprising an eclectic mix of naval chiefs, academics, and representatives from the financial and legal realms, as well as several politicians – was tasked with delving deep into the submarine procurement conundrum.
Gathered for the first time on February 6, this panel embarked on a 30-day journey to fathom the depths of the navy’s needs, the ripples of international affairs, and the viability of the choices at hand. “We are open to all options,” stated Adm Adung, his words casting a wide net over the possibilities, urging the committee to weigh anchor on the pros and cons, and navigate towards a feasible solution.
When prodded about the navy’s fervent push for the submarine program, Adm Adung’s response was as deep and unfathomable as the oceans. The navy, he explained, seeks to uphold the legacy of its former chiefs, envisioning submarines not merely as vessels but as potent deterrents beneath the waves. Yet, he conceded, if the panel surfaces with a superior alternative, the navy is ready to steer in that new direction.
“I hope that everyone will base their decision on the national interest and the nation’s dignity,” Adm Adung said, his words echoing through the halls of deliberation, a reminder of the weighty responsibility resting on the panel’s shoulders.
In the face of inquiries concerning the navy’s capability to guard the nation’s maritime interests during the prolonged construction of the Chinese submarine, Adm Adung remained buoyant. Surface ships, he affirmed, are more than capable of patrolling the nation’s waters, with the submarine destined to serve as a shadowy guardian, a silent deterrent lurking beneath the waves.
As discussions veer into the choppy waters of international diplomacy and the joint exploitation of hydrocarbon resources in the Overlapping Claims Area (OCA) in the Gulf of Thailand, a disputed territory that has seen Thailand and Cambodia cast nets of claim and counterclaim, Adm Adung holds firm to his course. The navy, he clarifies, is the guardian of Thailand’s territorial waters. The intricate dance of international agreements falls under the purview of the Foreign Ministry, a dance the navy observes from the shores, steadfast in its role as the protector of Thailand’s maritime frontier.
In this saga of strategy, diplomacy, and national pride, the tale of Thailand’s submarine procurement project unfolds like a nautical chart of old, guiding the nation through uncharted waters towards a horizon where national interest and dignity shine as guiding stars.