Thai navy team left Wuhan before it was sealed off

Thai navy team left Wuhan before it was sealed off

A model of the Yuan Class S26T submarine Thailand is buying from China, on display at the Royal Thai Navy auditorium.  (File photo)
A model of the Yuan Class S26T submarine Thailand is buying from China, on display at the Royal Thai Navy auditorium. (File photo)

Twenty navy officers who returned from a visit to Wuhan, China, left the city before it was locked-down to contain the coronavirus epidemic, the navy spokesman said on Tuesday.

He was responding to questions why the navy delegation had been able to return from Wuhan when other Thais were stranded there.

VAdm Prachachart Sirisawat said the delegation had been in Wuhan to view the construction of the navy's submarine, but the contractor's dock was closed from Jan 22 to Feb 2 for the Lunar New Year holiday.

Therefore, they sought permission to leave Wuhan for a side trip. They made the decision also to protect themselves from the virus outbreak. None of them had known that Wuhan would later be sealed off, VAdm Prachachart said.

"After the Chinese government ordered the city's closure, our personnel could not return to Wuhan," said the spokesman, who is the navy's deputy chief-of-staff.

So they asked to return to Thailand, and the last one arrived back on Sunday, he said.

He said they all passed checkups by Chinese authorities before leaving China.

The 20-strong team was appointed to inspect the construction of the submarine commissioned by the navy. The team, led by Capt Witthaya Panphoka, worked closely with the China Ship Building Industry Corporation.

Work on the submarine was underway in Wuhan, the capital of Central China's Hubei province, with the project proceeding through three phases.

The navy signed an agreement to buy a Yuan Class S26T submarine costing 13.5 billion baht from China in 2017.

Construction began on Sept 7 last year in China, with delivery expected in 2023.


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