Thailand to track submarine transferred to Myanmar by Indian Navy

Myanmar's acquisition comes amid a flurry of submarine activity in the Bay of Bengal

INS Sindhuvir The INS Sindhuvir, with the INS Vikramaditya aircraft carrier in the background | Facebook account of Indian Navy

The deputy chief of the Royal Thai Navy has said his country will monitor Myanmar's use of a diesel-electric submarine being transferred by the Indian Navy. The ship is the first submarine that will enter Myanmar military service.

Vice Admiral Prachachart Sirisawat told the Bangkok Post on Monday that the Kilo class submarine "is scheduled to start operations from December 24" with Myanmar.

The Bangkok Post reported that the command of the Royal Thai Navy that oversees the Andaman Sea has been ordered to keep a watch over the activities of the Myanmar Navy submarine.

Myanmar plans to use its submarine for "security and protection of its maritime interests", Prachachart told the Bangkok Post. Prachachart claimed Myanmar was "going to increase its military efficiency”, referring to negotiations with Russia to buy more Kilo class submarines.

The Kilo class submarine India is transferring to Myanmar is the erstwhile INS Sindhuvir, a ship sold by the Soviet Union in 1988. The INS Sindhuvir was refurbished by Hindustan Shipyard Limited in Visakhapatnam. India and Myanmar had agreed to train personnel for the new submarine fleet at the submarine training base at Visakhapatnam.

The Times of India reported on Monday that the Myanmar Navy would use the Sindhuvir primarily as a training platform from March-April 2020.

Myanmar's acquisition of a submarine from India comes amid a flurry of submarine activity in the Bay of Bengal. Both Bangladesh and Thailand have, in recent years, signed up to buy submarines from Beijing. This is in addition to continuing Chinese forays.

In 2016, Bangladesh took delivery of its first submarines—two ageing Ming class vessels that were purchased in 2013 at a cost of $203 million. Bangladesh is also building a base at Cox's Bazar for the submarine fleet, with China expected to assist in its construction.

In 2017, the Royal Thai Navy signed $390 million contract with a Chinese shipyard to buy a S-26T class diesel-electric submarine, a new-generation vessel. The Royal Thai Navy is seeking funds to buy two more S-26T submarines.

While economic ties between Thailand and Myanmar have improved, maritime boundary disputes and activities of Karen rebels on their border have strained ties occasionally.