This week, the chief of the Thai navy’s hydrographic department paid a visit to Vietnam in yet another official exchange between the two Southeast Asian states. The interaction highlighted the ongoing activity between the navies of the two Southeast Asian states within the wider strategic partnership that both sides have forged over the years.

As I have noted before in these pages, the maritime domain has long factored into wider cooperation between Vietnam and Thailand, which, though characterized by animosity for much of the Cold War, has been warming somewhat in recent years, with ties officially elevated to the level of a strategic partnership back in 2013.

The relationship between the two navies in particular has grown to cover a range of areas, from addressing challenges such as transnational crimes and illegal, unregulated, and unreported (IUU) fishing to stepping up visits, training, and channels of communication to broaden the scope of ongoing collaboration.

Over the past week, the naval aspect of bilateral ties was in the spotlight again when the director general of the Hydrographic Department of the Royal Thai Navy, Winai Maneeprag, paid a visit to Vietnam. Winai’s visit saw him participate in a series of engagements, including with the Vietnam Hydrographic Bureau and the deputy chief of the general staff of the Vietnam People’s Army, Pham Ngoc Minh.

As is customary with such engagements, both sides discussed aspects of the full range of mechanisms that exist in the naval side of the relationship. As I have noted previously, this includes joint patrols, port calls, and information and intelligence sharing.

But both sides also indicated that they would look to boost collaboration in the area of hydrographic cooperation more specifically. Vietnam’s defense ministry said Minh called for Vietnam and Thailand to reach consensus and move toward signing a hydrographic cooperation agreement between their two navies.

Winai, for his part, addressed Vietnam’s hydrographic sector and expressed his agreement in supporting Vietnam’s admission to the East Asia Hydrographic Commission (EAHC), a regional hydrographic commission set up back in 1971. Currently, there are six Southeast Asian states within the EAHC: Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, and Thailand.

By Prashanth Parameswaran - The Diplomat - August 13, 2018