Have you ever wondered about the Naval Ships that are a feature of the Hua Hin Seascape?
Just wander along a Hua Hin central beach any day (or night) and glance out to sea. The chances are you will see four or five ships just off the coast with the Royal Thailand Navy offering a protective ’umbrella ‘over our community. In part about ensuring the safety of the Klai Kangwon Palace and any residents that may be spending time there but also adding to the safety that all Hua Hin ua Hhhhhhhhhm’
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The arrival of on August 1st to the Palace of their Royal Majesties the King and Queen adds new dimension to this responsibility.
Hua Hin Today went to talk with Rear Admiral Duesdee Sangkhapreecha and other staff Members at the Royal Thailand Navy facility Hua Hin at the end of Soi 53 in downtown Hua Hin. He is the Officer in Charge and responsible for the ‘fleet’ at sea. The Rear Admiral commented that this was the first occasion that any media had shown an interest in the naval presence and really welcomed us ‘on board’ and the opportunity to talk about the Royal Thailand Navy in Hua Hin.
The Rear Admiral described the naval presence as ‘semi permanent’. What this means is that both the navy personnel and the ships operate in these waters on a rotational basis. Every three months there is a new ‘fleet’ and a new group of sailors in town and on the water. Around 300 naval personnel are involved in this rotation which provides an opportunity to experience active Royal Family protection duties, training and enjoying something of the Hua Hin lifestyle and community. We understand that this is a popular posting with sailors all having strong feelings and personal pride about the responsibility of keeping the Royal Family safe in Hua Hin.
The rotation includes the position of Officer in Charge. The Rear Admiral’s own permanent post is Commander, Helicopter Carrier Squadron, Royal Thai Fleet based at Samaesan Sattahip Base in Chonburi. He is about to complete his 5th ‘Tour of Duty’ in Hua Hin.
Typically there are 4-5 Patrol Boats accompanied by a Frigate off our coast. They are provisioned by local suppliers and may also be visited by refueling vessels. However returning to base at Sattahip (Chonburi Province) allows for maintenance that is necessary for any ship at sea.
Many residents of Hua Hin may not be aware that extending from the beach at the Maruekhathaiyawan Royal Palace there is an exclusion zone for all maritime vessels, including jet skis, fishing boats and anything else afloat (or underwater). This area is constantly under surveillance and although it may not be obvious; the navy is serious. The Rear Admiral manages this surveillance with a clear policy of ‘fair but firm’. An aggressive approach by the navy is not what this is about, particularly as those wandering into the zone are almost always without any malicious intent; just either unaware of the zone or perhaps a little absent minded or neglectful.
We were told of a training mission that involved a local fishing boat. The fishing boat and crew were accompanied by a navy person travelling ‘incognito’. The task was to cross into the ‘no-go’ zone and test the reaction of an intercepting naval ship. Apart from the ‘top brass’ and the sailor on board the fishing boat, this was not revealed to others as a training exercise. When the fishing boat was intercepted, a deliberate stream of verbal abuse was orchestrated by the ‘phony’ fisherman looking to provoke a reaction from the crew of the ship. The Rear Admiral told us about a video he reviewed which, apart from providing him with a good laugh at the antics of the provocateur, was a source of great pride due to the patient insistence and good natured reactions of the ship’s crew.
A stranger tale was about a jet ski rider who, when questioned about the reasons for being in the exclusion zone, was a little embarrassed to admit that he had become disorientated during a jet ski event near Pattaya. After all Hua Hin is only about 100 km off course!
About the Rear Admiral
Our host the Rear Admiral has 30 years experience in the Royal Thailand Navy. This includes being the Captain of naval ships in a variety of classes but also as an appointed Naval Attaché in Delhi, India. He has been involved in exercises with the Navies of many different Nations. However in his present role he is also eager to become involved in land based activities in the Hua Hin community including supporting a local school with many disadvantaged students.
He is a very confident high ranking naval officer. Apart from his protective mission, his main concern is to maintain the sound reputation that his sailors enjoy during their leave time in town. After all drunken sailors are never a good look!
We asked the Rear Admiral about his personal recreational time in Hua Hin. Perhaps a little unusual for a lifelong sailor, he likes nothing better than to take a stroll to the Hua Hin Railway Station and to relax and indulge in his favourite hobby of ‘train spotting’. He has the perfect local venue as the historical Hua Hin Railway Station is arguably the most famous in Thailand. This passion originates from a childhood ambition to become a train driver, an ambition that was quickly scuttled by his parents. However his enjoyment of this land based form of transport remains. If you ask politely, he can hum a tune sounding very much like the sound on a train on the tracks. His wife isn’t really convinced about the glamour of this form of transport, but given the chance, this is how he likes to travel when he is not on the ocean.
On a more serious note, the personal pride and reverence for His Majesty the King of Thailand was sincerely and personally expressed by the Rear Admiral. He eagerly offered examples of the benefits of the King’s efforts to improve the life of the people of Thailand. Our host provided a true example of why Thai people have such great pride in their armed services and their role in Thai society. Our sincere thanks to the Royal Thailand Navy for an open, good humored and enthusiastic welcome to our very curious staff. And of course, thanks for keeping us all safe in Hua Hin!
To provide ongoing information to the community, including details of the exclusion zone, a local website is now being developed. Hua Hin Today will provide more information before too long!