Cabinet backs Chinese tanks purchase
The cabinet yesterday approved the Defence Ministry's proposal to buy 10 more VT-4 tanks from China worth two billion baht, Deputy Prime Minister and Defence Minister Prawit Wongsuwon said.
Speaking after the cabinet meeting, Gen Prawit said the two-billion-baht purchase was the second phase of the army's tank procurement scheme.
He said the new tanks would replace the US-made M-41 light tanks which have been in use for over 40 years.
The procurement plan is for a full battalion of 49 tanks which are likely to be deployed in three battalions -- the 4th Cavalry Battalion, the 9th Cavalry Battalion and the 8th Cavalry Battalion.
Under the helm of Gen Teerachai Nakwanich, the army signed an agreement to buy 28 VT-4 tanks from China.
His successor Gen Chalermchai Sittisat proceeded to buy the batch of 10 VT-4 tanks under a tied-over budget of three years.
Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha yesterday defended the cabinet's decision to give the Defence Ministry the go-ahead to buy the Chinese-manufactured tanks, saying it was based on necessity.
He also allayed concerns about the choice of manufacturer, saying a procurement committee was responsible for vetting the tank specifications, capabilities and prices.
"We have to consider the manufacturer and our budget," Gen Prayut said. "The price of a Western country's tank is three times higher than that of an Eastern country.
"There is a committee responsible for considering who we are buying from and whether it is a good buy," the prime minister said.