Tags: Aircraft Carrier, Disaster Relief, Thailand
In late October and early November, Thailand’s southern provinces were hit by major flooding. The flooding, triggered by a tropical depression, affected around 100,000 people by one account, with waters up to three meter high.
In response, the Thai government sent the Royal Thai Navy vessel that is an oddball of world navies. While most coastal nations maintain naval forces, only handful operate aircraft carriers (Brazil, France, India, Italy, Russia, Spain, Thailand, UK, US). The vessel, HTMS Chakri Naruebet, is the flagship of the Royal Thai Navy and is the smallest aircraft carrier in operation. Since being built by Spain in the mid-90s, the carrier has been most famous for rarely leaving port (one source claims the ship only has funding to lease port one day a month). However, it does deploy sometimes. Since coming into service the ship has taken part in four disaster relief missions. This makes disaster relief a (if not the most) common mission for the ship.
However, you’d be wrong to compare the HTMS Chakri Naruebet’s disaster relief mission with those of the United States Navy. Based on an article in the Pattaya Daily News, the aircraft carrier contribution to the relief effort was limited to single truck load of supplies (mostly bottled water, according to the photos in the article) and a few helicopter flights over the disaster area. Far from being the nations knight in grey armor, the carrier’s mission seems to be mostly disaster relief theater on the part of the Thai leadership. This is not the first time Thai military has been used to provide token disaster relief, in mid-october Thai Royal Highness Princess Soamsavali ordered two Amphibious Assault Vehicles to assist flood victims in Thai’s northeast region. Two! You’d probably be better off hiring some local fishing boats.