September 28, 2015 By Grant Newsham
The country needs a more robust capability. Here’s how it can achieve it.
As Indo-Pacific nations build up their naval power, submarines, cruise missiles, aircraft carriers, jets, and frigates get the most attention. However, an underreported but significant regional trend over the last five years is widespread interest in amphibious capabilities.
Japan and Australia have created rudimentary amphibious forces, and New Zealand is working to develop one. Malaysia has publicly stated it wants a Marine Corps and even the small, remote Maldives has established a Marine Corps.
Apart from this, Asia also already has a number of Marine Corps or amphibious-capable ground forces. The ROK Marine Corps is one of the oldest and most capable, though largely tied to the Korean peninsula. The Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) has a large Marine Corps, and as the PRC pursues its territorial expansion strategies it understands the value of amphibious forces and is rapidly building new amphibious ships.
The Indonesian Marine Corps is expanding, while the Philippine Marines are working to upgrade their force. India has amphibious-capable forces, even though they lack adequate funding and focus, and Singapore is looking to improve its amphibious capabilities. Bucking the trend, the competent Taiwan Marines have been pared down in recent years – to the point where they may eventually be ineffective.
The Royal Thai Marine Corps (RTMC) has a long history and can conduct amphibious operations. It has performed superbly in the south against separatist insurgents, and made important contributions to winning the nearly 30-year long Communist insurgency. However, the RTMC can make even greater contributions to Thailand’s national security and to regional security as well. The RTMC is indeed a neglected strategic asset, but to understand why, one first must understand why amphibious capabilities are important.