Navy Ship Sinks Off Prachuap Khiri Khan Coast

An undated photo of HTMS Sukhothai. Photo: Royal Thai Navy
An undated photo of HTMS Sukhothai. Photo: Royal Thai Navy

PRACHUAP KHIRI KHAN — A search and rescue operation was launched for 28 sailors missing after a Royal Thai Navy warship sank in the Gulf of Thailand on Sunday night.

Royal Fleet commander Adung Phan-iam said navy vessels and aircrafts have been deployed to find the missing crew members off the coast of Prachuap Khiri Khan province. The corvette HTMS Sukhothai sank at around 11.30pm after it ran into high waves and capsized in what appeared to be the first sinking of a Thai navy ship in modern history.

Despite earlier reports saying all sailors were safe, the navy said Monday morning that only 78 out of 106 had been rescued so far. Three of them were in critical condition.

The ship was on its way to attend a commemorative event to mark the 100th anniversary of the death of the force’s founder, Prince Abhakara Kiartivongse, in Chonburi province, navy spokesman Pokkrong Monthatphalin said.

About 20 nautical miles out to sea, the vessel encountered choppy waters which disabled its engines. Water began to gush into the ship as the pumps went down, forcing it to list and within hours fully submerged the ship.

Photos circulated on social media shows sailors clinging to railings as the ship dipped its side at a stark angle into the sea.

The Ratanakosin-class corvette was built in the U.S. and commissioned in 1987. The class is armed with anti-ship missiles, surface-to-air missiles, naval guns, and torpedoes for anti-submarine and patrol missions, according to the navy.

The last known loss of a Thai navy ship took place during the World War II in 1945, when the replenishment ship HTMS Samui was torpedoed by an American submarine off the Malaysian coast, killing 31 sailors.

Update: The story has been updated to reflect that a search and rescue operation is still underway. This is a developing story and will be updated without notice.