City brims with pomp, pageantry and umbrellas for Nov. 13-20 show
Pattaya brimmed with pomp, pageantry and umbrellas as the city hosted the International Fleet Review.
Three years in the making, the Nov. 13-20 show was held to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Association of Southeast Nations. Pattaya Bay was filled with 26 warships from 19 countries – Australia, Bangladesh, Brunei, Cambodia, China, India, Indonesia, Iran, Japan, Malaysia, Myanmar, Pakistan, the Philippines, Russia, Singapore, South Korea, Sri Lanka, the United States and Vietnam – as well numerous Royal Thai Navy vessels.
Mayor Anan Charoenchasri and all of Pattaya’s top administrators and city council members greeted Vice Adm. Sucha Kiemthongkam, chief of staff for the Royal Thai Navy, who led a delegation of 80 captains and top officers from 36 vessels to city hall. Anan presented Sucha with a key to the city and thanked all of the Thai and foreign officers for participating in the fleet show.
RTN commander-in-chief Adm. Naris Pratumsuwan said earlier at the Sattahip Naval Base that the fleet show marked the first time that all ASEAN countries assembled in the Gulf of Thailand. ASEAN invited Thailand to host the review at its 2014 ministerial meeting and the country formally accepted last year, choosing Pattaya as the venue.
Naris officially welcomed all the foreign captains and selected Capt. Karan Klinbuakaew to represent Thailand’s fleet during various activities.
The fleet show began slowly, with the horizon of Pattaya Bay gradually becoming dotted with navy ships of all sizes. Each nation was assigned a specific mooring area and civilian boat traffic finally was banned at the pinnacle of the show Nov. 19-20, two days in which chair and umbrella vendors also were kicked off Pattaya Beach so as not to obstruct the view.
Tourists got their first landside glimpse of official Fleet Review proceedings with the practice run for the weekend’s rescue exercises and parades.
Thai sailors assembled in the rain at Central Road for a rescue exercise with rescue volunteers and doctors. Then about 500 Thai and foreign personnel split into three groups in a soggy parade to Walking Street.
Rain – and the usual flooding – would be a major factor throughout the week. Defense Minister Prawit Wongsuwon had his own umbrella as he officially opened the show Nov. 19 at the Dusit Thani Hotel.
Prawit said that, at 50, ASEAN is moving forward faster than ever and he looked forward to more join exercises like the fleet show. He and top officers moved to Bali Hai Pier where the RTN’s fleet show flagship, the HTMS Thalang, was berthed and provided officers a rain-soaked view of the parades on land.
The procession was headed by the RTN’s marching band and followed by drum and band corps of the participating nations with Pattaya’s various tourist attractions bringing up the rear in colorful floats.
On the water, boats moved in formation, helicopters flew and sailors put on 45-minute-long rescue and fire drills as soggy tourists watched from Beach Road.
The day was capped by a spectacular, but short, fireworks display that was a shadow of the planned International Firework Show Pattaya had planned for the occasion, and then canceled when it was unable to get the budget approved by the Interior Ministry in time.
A greater embarrassment to the city was the calf-deep flooding that foreign sailors in full dress uniforms were forced to wade through.
Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha, who presided over the Nov. 20 finale from the deck of the HTMS Thalang, made no mention of the flooding or rain, however, instead basking in the knowledge that all of Thailand’s neighbors had come to his country to celebrate the regional blocs founding five decades ago.
In the end, the International Fleet Review proved a boon for Pattaya’s bottom line, despite the rain, flooding, traffic chaos, business closures and other disruptions caused for regular tourists and locals.