Prawit denies chopper deal 'to please' US

Prawit denies chopper deal 'to please' US

Deputy Prime Minister and Defence Minister Prawit Wongsuwon yesterday rejected claims the government was trying to curry favour with the US by expressing its interest in purchasing several attack helicopters from them.

He said he hadn't said the government would purchase Cobra attack helicopters from the US as accused, but merely said the army has a procurement plan for some attack helicopters.

Details as to what models and from what countries the helicopters will be purchased have not been discussed.

His remark about the helicopter procurement plan should not be seen as an attempt to please the US government, Gen Prawit said. The army is in the process of forming a committee to choose which helicopters the army may want to acquire.

A source said the panel is needed to decide on the specifications of new attack helicopters that will be purchased to replace the army's six Cobra helicopters, four of which had already been decommissioned.

The other two will soon be grounded when their service periods expire.

Six new helicopters will be needed, said the source, adding the models being considered include the Cobra, AH-1Z Viper, AH-64 Apache from the US, the Mi-28 from Russia, the Z-10 from China or the AW-129 from Italy.

Army chief Chalermchai Sitthisad insisted the army had not made a decision on the possible models or suppliers of the helicopters it wants to purchase, saying there had not even been a deadline for making a final decision.

The army still has to see if there will be sufficient funds for the plan.

Meanwhile, political activist Srisuwan Janya said the government should revise the plan.

As back-up, the Office of the Auditor-General, the National Anti-Corruption Commission and the Office of the Ombudsman should step in to investigate whether the spending would be in breach of Section 62 of the 2017 constitution.

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