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Commander regrets not freeing ship's crew

The navy's anti-piracy mission in the Gulf of Aden was only partly successful after it failed to rescue the Thai crew members of a ship held hostage by Somali pirates, says the commander of the counter-piracy task unit.

Commander regrets not freeing ship's crew
21 January 2011 - 00:03

The navy's anti-piracy mission in the Gulf of Aden was only partly successful after it failed to rescue the Thai crew members of a ship held hostage by Somali pirates, says the commander of the counter-piracy task unit.  Sailors disembark from HTMSSimilan which, along with HTMSPattani , joined the international anti-piracy operation off Somalia.Sailors disembark from HTMSSimilan which, along with HTMSPattani , joined the international anti-piracy operation off Somalia.
Sailors disembark from HTMSSimilan which, along with HTMSPattani , joined the international anti-piracy operation off Somalia.

The company that owns the ship rejected the navy's attempts to help and instead chose to negotiate with the pirates and pay a ransom to obtain the release of the crew.

Chief Petty Officer 1st Class Boonsueb Utako is close to tears as he is greeted by his two sons after returning to Thailand yesterday following the anti-piracy mission in the Gulf of Aden off Somalia. PHOTOS BY JETJARAS NA RANONG.Chief Petty Officer 1st Class Boonsueb Utako is close to tears as he is greeted by his two sons after returning to Thailand yesterday following the anti-piracy mission in the Gulf of Aden off Somalia. PHOTOS BY JETJARAS NA RANONG.

Rear Adm Chaiyot Sundaranaga told the Bangkok Post yesterday the navy had not ended its mission "in style" as the 27 cargo ship crew remain captive.

About 350 sailors on board two Thai navy ships assigned to the international anti-piracy task force off Somalia - HTMS Similan and HTMS Pattani - returned to Chuk Samet naval base in Sattahip district, Chon Buri, yesterday morning after 137 days patrolling the Gulf of Aden.

The navy decided to end its mission after failing to make progress in negotiations for the return of the Thai-flagged MV Thor Nexus, seized by pirates in the Indian Ocean on Dec 24.

The ship was en route to Bangladesh from the United Arab Emirates when it was taken.

"I regret that we could not do anything much to help the Thai crew," Rear Adm Chaiyot said.

"I want to let it be known that we did not intend to abandon them."

The mission commander said the company that owned the freighter had asked the navy to stop following the vessel. The company chose to negotiate with the pirates and offered to pay a ransom to obtain the release of the crew, he said.

"The pirates used the hostages as human shields, so we could not use force to retake the ship. If it had resulted in loss of life, it would have been too great a responsibility."


Chief Petty Officer 1st Class Boonsueb Utako is close to tears as he is greeted by his two sons after returning to Thailand yesterday following the anti-piracy mission in the Gulf of Aden off Somalia. PHOTOS BY JETJARAS NA RANONG.

Rear Adm Chaiyot insisted the unit had performed its duty to the best of its ability.

The navy ships had to keep about 30 nautical miles between themselves and the vessel seized by the pirates, he said.

The pirates communicated to the unit by radio and said: "Don't come near me."

They threatened to shoot the hostages if the navy ships came within 10 nautical miles, he said.

He said the navy had to stop following the cargo ship when it entered Somalia's territorial waters.

Rear Adm Chaiyot said the counter-piracy unit decided to turn back after the Thai crew on board the freighter radioed to say they were all safe.

The mission commander stressed the need to implement proactive and preventive measures against the pirates.

 

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