Vehicle IDs, weapon detectors backed

The cabinet has approved a proposal to buy vehicle identification technology to help battle the southern insurgency.

The devices are part of a technology procurement package valued at more than 4.5 billion baht that also includes bomb- and weapon-detecting vehicles and solar-powered street lights, said Ukrit Mongkolnavin, chairman of the Independent Committee for Promotion of the Rule of Law.

The Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) device is a small electronic device equipped with a microchip that enables officers to identify cars and motorcycles. The device scans objects, including licence plates, and collects data much like a barcode reader.

Mr Ukrit said the RFID device, which was suggested by the committee, can improve authorities' ability to prevent militants from stealing cars and motorcycles to use in bomb attacks.

If the RFID technology is installed in about 800,000 cars and motorcycles in the three southernmost provinces, the programme should cost around 1.5 billion baht, Mr Ukrit said.

RFID and bomb- and weapon-detecting vehicles will be used at checkpoints to identify if passing cars and motorcycles are being used by rebel groups, he said.

As each vehicle costs between 70-80 million baht, Mr Ukrit said the government would rent them to discourage corruption and save maintenance costs.

The solar-powered street lights will not rely on public utilities, reducing the threat of rebel attacks on power lines, he said.

Mr Ukrit said about 30,000 solar-powered street lights are needed to cover a distance of 500km along main and minor roads in the three provinces.

The new street light system is expected to cost 3 billion baht, he said.

Mr Ukrit said the new devices will not share the same fate as the GT200 bomb detectors. Experts described the GT200, purchased from a British company, as little more than a radio aerial stuck on a useless piece of plastic, despite the company's claims that it can detect explosives from hundreds of metres away.

A government probe concluded the device worked only 25% of the time, which critics attributed to mere chance.

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Writer: King-oua Laohong
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