Thai navy's plan to buy Chinese subs put on hold

Updated: 2015-07-15 20:52


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BANGKOK - The Thai navy's plan to buy three newly-built submarines from China has been apparently put on hold by the military-led government.

Deputy Prime Minister and Defense Minister Gen. Prawit Wongsuwan suggested on Wednesday that navy chief Adm. Kraisorn Chansuvanit review his plan to buy three Chinese-made subs under a government-to-government dealing and that it will not be submitted to the cabinet under Premier Prayut Chan-o-cha for the time being.

In particular, the defense minister said the navy chief, who had strongly pushed for the Chinese subs in preference over those from rival European states and South Korea, should take into account "the public reception" of the sub purchasing plan.

"It remains to be seen how suitable and cost-effective the ( sought-after) subs could possibly be. That is a subject on which the navy is yet to conduct a thorough study."

"In the meantime, the navy should monitor public reception of such a procurement plan while the country's 2 trillion baht (about 60 billion US dollars) maritime interests are at stake," Gen. Prawit said but did not elaborate.

He said the navy's sub purchasing plan will not be considered for approval by the cabinet anytime soon since he himself is directly responsible for the forwarding of it.

"It is not going to be submitted to the cabinet for the time being, pending thorough study," the defense minister concluded.

Gen. Prawit did not suggest as to how soon the navy plan might be finally submitted to the cabinet headed by Prayut who has remained non-committal about it so far.

Adm. Kraisorn earlier said that subs may be applied for a deterrent weapon system and not for offensive reasons and that Thailand will not wage war with any other country only given any sub.

"Subs may practically manifest in part the country's defense potentials... They are not necessarily meant for deployment at war time," the navy chief said.

He assured that subs could potentially be deployed in the Gulf of Thailand and the Andaman Sea to safeguard sea lines of communication, undersea natural resources as well as coastal and island resorts, besides maritime territorial integrity.

A 17-person procurement committee had earlier visited sub- building dockyards in several countries including Germany, Sweden, France, South Korea and China before reaching a unanimous decision to pick the Chinese subs, according to the navy chief.

Thailand has not had subs since the last six decades while several ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) states currently do, including Malaysia which deploys French-made, Scorpene-class subs, Singapore with Swedish-made, Sjoormen-class and Vastergotland-class subs, Indonesia with South Korean-made, Type 209-class subs and Vietnam with Russian-made, Kilo-class subs.