The news comes after the object has spent more than two weeks on the popular Phuket beach, albeit in a roped-off area to keep people a safe distance away.
The suspect object was first discovered by a local fisherman on Oct 3 who reported the discovery to officers stationed at Sirinath National Park. (See story here.)
It has remained on the beach since, while experts figure exactly what the torpedo-shaped object is and how to deal with it.
After much combobulation – following scores of Navy personnel, local officers and others being involved in the attempts to secure and identify the object – EOD officials from the Royal Thai Navy Third Area Command conducted an X-ray scan of the object yesterday (Oct 18) specifically to look for explosive materials within the object’s shell.
Present for the auspicious scan, at about 3pm, were no less than Vice Admiral Ritipong Kiaw-on from the Navy base in Satthahip in Chonburi and Lt Col Sombat Saengchaiyaphum, who heads the Royal Thai Navy Third Area Command Operations Division, as well as Lieutenant Junior Grade (LTJG) Thanakrit Jamjit of the EOD team from the Navy base in Phang Nga, who has led the Navy operation at the site to contain and identify the device.
The area was closed off from people and tourists for safety as the X-ray was conducted on the object which Navy personnel now say they believe to be an “Oropesa” minesweeping float used to sweep mines back in World War I.
Previously Navy experts said they were “sure” the object was an “Oropesa” minesweeping float used to sweep mines back in World War II. Now they have revised their estimates and say the object is at least three decades older.
Although “Oropesa” minesweeping floats are well documented for not carrying any explosive materials, the Royal Thai Navy team yesterday proceeded with their X-ray scans anyway.
V/Admiral Ritipong said, “The scans from the X-ray machine appear as a one-dimensional image of the object. There is no electronic circuit inside, or any dangerous substances.
“Our naval ordnance team will arrange for it [the object] to be handed over to the Royal Thai Navy Third Area Command naval base.”
Lt Col Sombat Saengchaiyaphum, of the 3rd Battalion Naval Operations Division, said, “Now that it is clear that the object is not harmful, we will need to move it out of the national park… We will report to our commander to obtain permission to relocate it.
“Once we get approval we will bring the float back to the Phang Nga Naval Base as quickly as possible. This is expected within this week. Staff must prepare equipment and a truck to lift it and transport it,” said Col Sombat.
“I will be overseeing the next processes,” he said.
“It is not known where it will eventually be kept, but there are two options: to keep at the Phang Nga Naval Base, or deliver it to the fleet headquarters in order to study where it came from,” Col Sombat said..
Naval officers “revealed” that in comparing the size and physical characteristics of the object with the historical war equipment information, it was found to resemble an “Oropesa minesweeper float Type 1”, which does not contain explosives.
“The float is responsible for supporting the sweep and other equipment, but no one is sure how it ended up here in Thailand, at Nai Yang Beach. It is predicted that it would have fallen from a ship decades ago and been floating in the sea since,” he said.
“The Oropesa minesweepers have been operating since World War I in 1919. Oropesa is named in honour of the craft that invented that particular technique of minesweeping,” Col Sombat noted.