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Thailand Navy trains with French frigate Vendemiaire.

| Naval News Navy 2024

According to information published by Nation Thailand on April 5, 2024, the French naval vessel Vandémiaire arrived in Thailand on April 1, initiating a critical phase of its "ASIE" mission, a three-month venture in partnership with Southeast Asian countries.
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Russian Vyborg Shipyard laid the Purga ice class coastguard ship of project 23550 925 001 French Navy's Floreal class frigate Vendemiaire. (Picture source: French MFA)

With Commander Sébastien Drouelle at the helm, the ship's engagement in Thailand until April 6 signifies its commitment to deepening regional partnerships, particularly with the Indo-Pacific Maritime Coordination Center (IPMCC) affiliates.

Commander Drouelle detailed the mission's goals of enhancing connections and collaborative initiatives across Southeast Asia. The Vandémiaire's stops in Timor-Leste and Indonesia prior to Thailand underscored its dedication to strengthening similar ties. With plans to visit Vietnam, the Philippines, Brunei, and Australia next, the mission continues its efforts to promote collaboration and unity across the Indo-Pacific.

This event is set against the backdrop of the Royal Thai Navy's (RTN) nuanced diplomacy, navigating through the waters of both long-standing alliances and emerging partnerships. Recent developments highlight Thailand's strategic maneuvering between its historical ties with the United States and its growing military engagements with China.

The U.S. and Thailand share a durable partnership, reinforced by activities like the annual Cooperation Afloat Readiness and Training (CARAT) exercise, which emphasizes the mutual goal of ensuring a free and open Indo-Pacific maritime security environment.

The 27th iteration of CARAT Thailand, for instance, demonstrated the longstanding alliance between the two nations, with activities aimed at enhancing operational capabilities and mutual trust through complex naval maneuvers, maritime domain awareness, and search and rescue exercises​.

Conversely, Thailand's military relations with China have also been advancing steadily, illustrated by joint exercises and arms sales, including the significant procurement of a Chinese-made S26T Yuan-class submarine, valued at $380 million.

This deal, among others, underscores a strategic pivot as China has become a top arms supplier to Thailand, replacing the U.S. in recent years. The shift is partly attributed to the strained relations between Thailand's military junta and the U.S., following the 2014 coup.

Despite these growing ties, experts caution about the volatility of Thailand's foreign policy, suggesting that the nation’s approach is full of "ups and downs," potentially influenced by domestic politics or strategies to improve bargaining positions​​.

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