The Thai Ministry of Defense has postponed its submarine purchase plan, at least for now, following the order of Prime Minister Prayut Chan-O’Cha, Defense Ministry spokesman Kongcheep Tantravanich told the press yesterday, July 18th.
The spokesman stated, however, that the navy’s submarine procurement program is an intergovernmental agreement (G to G) project between the Thai and Chinese Ministry of Defense to strengthen maritime forces, especially the underwater dimensions in which Thailand says they have limited abilities, and to maintain the balance of national security and maritime interests.
In 2020, the submarine purchase was considered as a part of the annual budget plan. However, due to the pandemic of Covid-19, the Prime Minister then urged the Ministry of Defense and the Navy to reconsider the possibility of delaying the procurement of two submarines, part of a three-submarine package. The Ministry, therefore, postponed the plan and returned the budget for the year 2020 and for 2021 to the government for urgent use.
In the 2022 budget, the Prime Minister has already ordered the Ministry of Defense to consider withdrawing the submarine project budget plan as the pandemic situation in Thailand is still worrisome. The Ministry would further discuss the issue with the Ministry of Defense of the People’s Republic of China on the reasons and necessity that had to have the project postponed.
Thailand has continually defended its purchase of multiple submarines from China, stating that the legal contract before Thailand and China was made well before Covid-19, and budgets set aside for this had nothing to do with Covid-19. These explanations, however, have not resonated with the public, many of whom have continued to criticize the plan on social media, stating that the visuals of moving forward with the purchase at this time due to the pandemic were wrong.
The spokesman further explained that the project had a mutual agreement between China and Thailand to proceed directly and transparently. The Ministry aimed to provide facts and correct information to the Thai people and urged the public not to relate the procurement to any political exploitation as it could affect confidence and international relations between two countries.
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