On October 20th, 2023, Mr. Sutin Klungsang, the Thai Minister of Defense, publicly revealed details following his visit to the Royal Thai Navy on various aspects of naval operations and government policies.
The issue of submarines, specifically the procurement of engines from China, was a point of focus. Both the Ministry of Defense and the Thai government had been working to resolve such an issue, following the previous governments attempts.
In a recent development, the Thai Navy accepted a proposal to replace their planned submarine with Chinese frigates. The Navy had previously requested the Thai government to secure submarine engines from China, but negotiations with the Chinese government proved unsuccessful. Consequently, the Navy had put forth a proposal to acquire frigates instead of the originally planned submarines.
The government believed that frigates had the capability to effectively address their defense needs, though inferior to submarines. During a diplomatic discussion with China, the Chinese side also faced difficulties regarding engine procurement, and both sides expressed mutual understanding of each other’s challenges.
“The shift from submarines to frigates will require detailed discussions on various aspects, such as financial arrangements, technology transfer conditions, and legal aspects. It is important to note that this is not a cancellation of the agreement with China but rather an adjustment to the terms within the existing framework of the Thailand-China agreement,” said Sutin.
Thailand had already made payments on the submarines to China, and it was suggested that the cost of the frigates, estimated at around 7 billion baht, should be set against the outstanding payment, with an additional 6 billion baht required. The total cost of the new frigates from China had not been confirmed yet, but preliminary estimates were around 17 billion Baht. Further discussions would be necessary to finalize the specifics of the deal.
On October 21st, 2023, Mr. Wiroj Lakkhanaadisorn, the opposition from the House of Representatives, the Chairman of the Military Committee, and Council retweeted on “X” regarding ‘ThaiArmedForce.com’.
Wiroj also invited the Royal Thai Navy to provide a detailed account of the situation and facts in the upcoming week, especially concerning the cost implications, despite the cancellation of the submarine procurement. The government was expected to pay up to an additional 10 billion baht, totaling approximately 17 billion Baht, for the procurement of Chinese frigates.