Although Thailand had small naval components throughout much of its long history, the development of a modern navy capable of carrying out combat missions dated from the post-World War II period. Thereafter, the size and efficiency of the Royal Thai Navy increased steadily. Of the three service branches, the navy was the least involved in national politics and therefore was able to concentrate more of its time and efforts on its security mission.
Naval affairs were directed by the country’s most senior admiral from his Bangkok headquarters. The naval commander in chief was supported by staff groups that planned and administered such activities as logistics, education and training, and various special services. The headquarters general staff functioned like those of corresponding staffs in the army and air force command structures.
The navy’s combat forces included the Royal Fleet and the Royal Thai Marine Corps. The latter was organized into two regiments composed of one artillery battalion, six infantry battalions, and one amphibious assault battalion; a light tank battalion was also proposed. The 130 vessels of the Royal Fleet included frigates equipped with surface-to-air missiles, fast attack craft armed with surface-to-surface missiles, large coastal patrol craft, coastal minelayers, coastal minesweepers, landing craft, and training ships (see thailand/th_appen.asp#table18"> table 18, Appendix). In addition, a small naval air component flew a modest inventory of helicopters and light aircraft in reconnaissance, patrol, antisubmarine warfare, and search-and-rescue missions. Major operational bases for the fleet, the marines, and the air units were the naval stations in Bangkok and Songkhla and the major naval bases at Sattahip and Ban Pak Nam.
In 1977 the government began construction of a new naval base in Ban Thap Mo District of Phangnga Province facing the Andaman Sea and approaches to the southern region. The new Phangnga naval base, completed by 1983, had a large steel-reinforced concrete wharf, dockyard, arsenal, living quarters for naval personnel, and other military facilities. The new base gave the Thai navy a modest but much-needed operations and support facility on the west coast of the Isthmus of Kra.