06 September 2012

Last Submariner Wants U-boats Revived

06 September 2012

Four Japanese submarines were purchased by Thailand prior to World War II. The four submarines were: H.T.M.S. MATCHANU, H.T.M.S. WIRUN, H.T.M.S. SINSAMUT, and H.T.M.S. PHLAI-CHUMPHON. The submarines were designed and built at the Mitsubishi Naval Dockyards. All four submarines were delivered to Thailand on 19 July, 1938. The four submarines were active until their decommissioning in 1951. (all photos : thaigunship)

The last surviving Thai submariner wishes the Royal Thai Navy would start using submarines again, saying they are essential for the defence of the country.

Lt Veera Phetsuwan, 91, was speaking at the Royal Thai Navy Institute in Bangkok yesterday on Thai Submarine Day.

''I am very proud to have worked in a submarine. I hope the navy will start using submarines again because they are strategically important. They are secret weapons and most of our neighbouring countries have them,'' he said.

Another source of pride for Lt Veera is that he is the only Thai naval officer sent to train in the US in the USS Sabalo, a submarine with 1,200-tonne displacement. The retiree said although the seas around Thai are shallow, the country should have small submarines with displacements of 400-500 tonnes.

Thailand used to have four submarines, supplied by Japan.

Lt Veera was a sailor on one of these, the HTMS Matchanu, which had a 400-tonne displacement.

The three other submarines were HTMS Wirun, HTMS Sinsamut, and HTMS Plai Chumphol.

Japan completed HTMS Matchanu and another submarine for Thailand on Sept 4, 1937, and so Thai Submarine Day is observed on Sept 4.

The four submarines reached Thailand in 1938. They were active during troubles in Indochina and World War II, before being decommissioned in 1951 due to a lack of spare parts as Japan was prohibited from producing any warfare equipment after its wartime defeat.

Lt Veera went to look at the model of HTMS Matchanu at the Royal Thai Navy Institute yesterday.

As the Defence Ministry has shelved its submarine procurement plan, the navy is only able to prepare its personnel for potential future submarine operations.

Rear Admiral Suriya Pornsuriya, commander of the ''Submarine Fleet'', said the navy is preparing to have submarines, pending submarine procurement, by building a 500 million baht Submarine Tactical Control Centre in the seafront Sattahip district of Chon Buri.

The facility will include a 190 million baht submarine simulator from Germany that will be used for personnel training.

Rear Adm Suriya said the situation in the South China Sea could become tense and if a battle takes place there the government will realise the necessity of possessing submarines.

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