By Thai Newsroom Reporters
OUTSPOKEN MP MONGKOLKIT Suksintharanond has offered to lead a team of divers in search of 23 sailors reportedly missing from a sunk navy corvette in the stormy Gulf of Thailand since last Sunday.
The Thai Civilized MP said he is patiently waiting another couple of days for the navy’s search and rescue mission to find all or any of the 23 sailors reported missing after HTMS 442 Sukhothai had capsized and sunk due to strong winds and high tides about 30 nautical miles off Prachuap Khiri Khan.
Without elaborating, the MP confirmed he himself will head a number of civilian divers in a separate search and rescue mission to find those missing sailors if the navy’s one conducted since the last five days fizzled out over the weekend.
Of a total of 105 crewmembers and marine passengers aboard HTMS 442 Sukhothai which had sailed on a non-combat mission from Sattahip naval base across the Gulf of Thailand toward an upper southern shore of Chumphon, 76 have been reportedly rescued to safety, six have been pronounced dead and 23 others have been so far unaccounted for.
According to the opposition MP, not only navy chief Adm. Choengchai Chomchoengpat, navy chief-of-staff Adm. Chonlathit Navanukhroh and First Fleet commander Vice Adm. Pichai Lorchusakul but Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha in his concurrent capacity as defence minister are definitely held accountable for the losses of the sailors due to the fatal mishap of the US-built navy corvette, deployed since 1987.
Mongkolkit called the capsizing and sinking of the corvette a “rare, questionable phenomenon.” “The navy warship was not a fishing trawler and it was built to withstand Tomahawk missiles and torpedoes, let alone tides in the sea which may have been six to seven metres high,” the MP said.
Mongkolkit expressed his bewilderment at the navy’s actions allegedly taken belatedly to rescue the sailors hours before the corvette had sunk to the bottom of the sea.
The MP said he has heard unconfirmed allegations to the extent that the sailors of the ill-fated ship may have been ordered by an unknown commanding navy officer to do everything possible to keep their ship from sinking rather than to take emergency steps to survive the stormy sea.
Besides, the MP wondered if HTMS 457 Kraburi which had scrambled to the scene during an initial part of the search and rescue mission may have lent any life jackets to the sailors aboard HTMS 442 Sukhothai, given the fact that the sinking ship had not had enough of such life-saving gear for its own crewmembers and passengers.
He said Prayut and the commanding admirals are yet to testify before the House Armed Services Committee over the fatal mishap of the corvette.
During a recent testimony to the House panel at parliament, Adm. Chonlathit categorically denied he had ordered the sailors of the navy corvette to do everything possible to keep it from sinking as alleged. The admiral admitted that he personally had never anticipated such a fatal mishap aboard the warship.
Top: MP Mongkolkit Suksintharanond has offered to help search for missing sailors.
Below: Bodies of two sailors who died when HTMS 442 Sukhothai sank last Sunday arrive at Surat Thani. All photos: Thai Rath
Front Page: HTMS 442 Sukhothai sailing in smooth waters and sinking last Sunday in this composite image. All photos: Thai Rath