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Vice Admiral Supot Pruksa, Phuket's top Naval officer.

Phuket's Top Sailor Decides To Up Anchor

Sunday, October 5, 2008
SEAFARING has provided Vice Admiral Supot Pruksa with an exciting period on Phuket as Commander, Third Naval Area Command.

Now, despite the island's many attractions, he is going into early retirement. It will probably mean more golf and less decision-making.

As the man in charge of security on Phuket for two years, he has enjoyed his time at the Navy base at Cape Panwa, and in Phang Nga at Tablamu.

The island province is distinct because it only has a navy base. There is no army or air force.

In his two-year term in command, Vice Admiral Supot has tried to instigate a plan for helicopter pads on outlying islands.

His plan was simple: to be prepared in the event of a problem involving safety at sea to make rescue easier.

What is not well known is that his plan for the helicopter pads sprang from a personal tragedy.

His nephew, as a young man on a navy exercise, died for want of assistance in tragic circumstances where the weather prevented his rescue.

A helicopter pad may have saved his life. Vice Admiral Supot still believes that the Similan Islands and Surin Island need helicopter pads as a precaution for when seafarers, especially tourists, get into trouble.

The environmentalists in charge of the marine park have so far rejected the panding pad concept, despite the credentials of the Navy as an enviromentally sensitive organisation, especially in its work with turtles along the Andaman coastline.

Some of his most interesting work has been in safeguarding the hatching grounds for turtles on the Similans.

Less well-known is the work that the Navy does protecting the area from illegal immigrants who arrive by sea.

Most often recently, the Navy's work has centred on the Rohingya, Burmese Muslims who are not allowed citizenship in their homeland.

As a result, many are forced to live as refugees in neighboring Bangladesh.

Vice Admiral Supot says that up to 1000 Rohingya arrive by sea each year along the Andaman coast, usually in October, November and December.

He believes it is a security issue because most of the travellers are males, and young enough to fight.

There was one group, he says, that included a man arrested on board carried the telephone number of a contact in Thailand's troubled Deep South.

Another of the Vice Admiral's activities has been in setting up a beachfront navy office in Patong, where about 20 sailors are available on a daily basis to help tourists if required.

His replacement, Vice Admiral Narong Testvisan, is due to arrive on Phuket this week.


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