Navy task force ships out of Sattahip for 2nd Somali mission

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Two Royal Thai Navy vessels have shipped out from Sattahip to begin Thailand’s second mission to battle pirates off the coast of Somalia.

Adm. Kamthon Pumhiran, the navy’s top commander, and Adm. Narong Tedwisan, head of the Royal Thai Fleet, bid adieu to the 368 crew members of the HTMS Similan and HTMS Naratiwat at the Sattahip Naval Base July 12. Sattahip Temple Abbott Wiboon Thammaban and 10 other monks prayed and blessed the ships before they set sail.

Family members wave goodbye as the Royal Thai Navy sets sail for Somalia. Family members wave goodbye as the Royal Thai Navy sets sail for Somalia.

The Similan, which patrolled the waters off Somalia last winter, and Narathiwat will work the Gulf of Aden for 140 days as part of an international task force. Capt. Paradon Puangkaew will be the mission commander while Capt. Tanin Likitwong will head the unit.

The force of 368 men, which includes a navy SEAL team and Bell helicopter group, is expected to return Nov. 28.

Before setting sail, Paradorn and Thanin led the entire task force on a run up Khao Laem Poo Chao to pray and give offerings to the spirit of Prince Chumphon, the father of the Thai navy.

Paradon said all naval personnel believe the Sattahip hillside is Chumphon’s holy resting place and pray there for good fortune and safe returns from seafaring missions.

Naval officials are certainly hoping to improve on the results of last year’s mission.

The HTMS Pattani and HTMS Similan made a much-touted 137-day mission to the Gulf of Aden from September until January, but returned to a muted welcome due to the Thai task force’s mixed results in combating piracy as part of an international task force.

While the Thai ships managed a dramatic rescue of 23 crew members of a Thai fishing boat hijacked by Somali pirates off the coast of Yemen Nov. 3, their early success was dampened by the failure to free 27 Thai fishing boat crewmembers hijacked and held hostage since Dec. 24. They remained hostages until mid-April, three months after the Thai fleet returned home.