Understanding the Threat
American Embassy team, Thai security officials
work together to protect visiting U.S. military forces
By SCOTT M. BERNAT, Special to Seapower
Thailand’s southern insurgency, political instability and military coups all remain critical
factors in determining the correct force protection posture for U.S. Navy deployments to the
“Land of Smiles.”
The security of visiting ships, aircraft, personnel
and associated equipment is dependent on an excellent
understanding of the threat environment, as well as the
capabilities, limitations and intentions of Thailand’s
security forces. Thailand’s southernmost provinces
routinely experience unrest, with frequent deadly
attacks on not only public officials and religious figures, but also civilians. Attacks include the use of
improvised explosive devices (IEDs), armed ambushes
The U.S. government halted U.S. Navy ship visits
after the Thai military-led coup of September 2006,
which ousted then-Prime Minister Thaksin Shina-watra. A series of unsolved IED bombings in the capitol city of Bangkok followed several months later.
Speculation as to the perpetrators ranged from pro-Thaksin supporters to southern insurgents. Graft and
corruption allegations and court proceedings involving
public officials remain commonplace.
Full U.S. military engagement
with Thailand, to include U.S. Navy
ship visits, was restored following the
democratic elections in December.
The complexity of Thailand’s
security environment requires that
U.S. deployed military forces
remain vigilant and set appropriate
An effective force-protection
program accounts for all seen and
unseen challenges and mitigates
the threat through an aggressive
host nation engagement strategy.
Force protection is a continuous
campaign that does not begin and
end with the arrival and departure of visiting forces. It is
dependent on a thorough understanding of the threat
and operating environment, as well as the interoperability of American and host nation security forces.
The U.S. Navy relies on multiple sources to ensure
the safety and security of forces transiting through or
visiting Thailand. External sources of force protection
support include the American Embassy Country Team
— comprising the Defense Attaché Office and Force
Protection Detachment (FPD) and the U.S. Naval
Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS) — as well as the
local Royal Thai Police and military, who provide critical land-based and waterborne security.
The cooperation and teamwork established among
these key partners, through routine liaison and engagement, ensures a comprehensive understanding of the
threat and security force-mitigation capabilities, allowing for the development of an effective security plan.
Thailand hosts more than 40 U.S. military exercises,
seminars and exchanges each year, with some events
involving more than 5,000 U.S. military participants.
U.S. Navy ship visits average two or more per month,
with deployed personnel numbering from 50 to 7,000.
The average length of each ship visit ranges from one to
Force Protection Detachment (FPD) Thailand is directly involved
in operationally preparing and monitoring the environment for this
month’s Cobra Gold exercise.
■ The FPD presents and participates in U.S.-Thai security seminars.
■ It deploys various security-related equipment to Thai security
■ Members conduct port, airfield, route, exercise and liberty
venue vulnerability surveys and monitor and report on the overall
threat to deployed forces.