After spending billions of baht on submarines from China, the Defence Ministry now plans to buy more tanks for the Army.
At the Cabinet meeting on 4 April 2017, Gen Prawit Wongsuwan, the Defence Minister, Deputy Prime Minister and deputy junta head, said the cabinet will not discuss the plan to spend 36 billion baht on three ‘Yuan Class S26T’ submarines from China.
He said the Defence Ministry’s Permanent Secretary’s Office still needs to check the details of the submarine procurement contract.
The Defence Minister added that the cabinet will, however, discuss a plan to spend two billion baht on 10 more VT-4 tanks from China to replace the light-weight M41 tanks from the US.
The Ministry previously bought 28 VT-4 tanks from China when Gen Teerachai Nakwanich was the Chief of the Royal Thai Army.
In January 2017, Adm Jumpol Lumpiganon, spokesman of the Royal Thai Navy (RTN), announced that the government of Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha, the junta leader and Prime Minister, had approved the purchase one of the three submarines from China after the 13.5 billion baht purchase was cleared by the junta-appointed National Legislative Assembly.
The RTN spokesperson added that though the price of a single submarine was more expensive than the package of three submarines initially planned by the RTN, the procurement budget was still limited.
Many people have raised eyebrows at the policy of spending 36 billion baht for submarines and plans to buy more tanks during the current period of economic stagnation and rumours that the junta might scrap the universal public healthcare system.
The deputy junta head told the media last year that he does not want people to compare the budget for defence with the budgets for public health, education or agricultural product subsidies, saying that it is necessary to buy arms for national security and sovereignty.
VT-4 tanks manufactured in China (Photo from Defence Blog)