Government slammed over satellite proposal
Activist says scheme would incur 91bn debt
Political activist Srisuwan Janya launched a public campaign Sunday against the Defence Ministry's new satellite project, accusing the government of attempting to incur up to 91.2 billion in public debt to fund the satellite procurement project.
Mr Srisuwan said the Defence Council last week approved a proposal for the Defence Ministry to draft a 2018-2027 strategic plan on space affairs for country defence purposes in paving the way for the purchase of 112 satellites called Theia.
Defence Ministry spokesman Khongcheep Tantrawanich said on Thursday the ministry should have its own satellite for security-related tasks, though a satellite would also be shared with other state agencies.
He was speaking after a meeting of the Defence Council, chaired by Defence Minister Prawit Wongsuwon, who is also deputy prime minister.
According to ministry sources, the defence council had ordered the Defence Technology Institute (DTI) and the ministry's space affairs and cyber centre to assess the Theia satellite project.
It is part of the Thailand Satellites Data Information Processing Centre (TSDIPC), in which Thailand will work with the United States and other countries, the sources said on Thursday.
The US Theia Group invited the Thai government to co-invest in a satellite (Theia Space) with another four or five countries, the names of which were not revealed, the sources said.
Theia Space can be used for image recording and survey natural resources, as well as national security purposes. This will give important information and yield economic benefits so it is in line with the Thailand 4.0 policy, one of the sources said.
The co-investment programme could take about 15 years at a cost of two billion baht a year, the sources said, noting Thailand may opt to only lease the satellite.
Mr Srisuwan, however, said he has learnt that the estimated cost of the plan to purchase the 112 satellites is 91.2 billion baht, excluding the cost of launching the satellites into space.
According to him, a former Thai politician is brokering the satellite deal between the TSDIPC and the US that is similar to ones that Saudi Arabia and Kazakhstan have already been lured by the US into agreeing on.
He said the cameras in these spy satellites are capable of zooming into an area in great details and can even capture a clear image of someone punching a number into a mobile phone screen.
This clearly is a violation of the rights and freedom of the people, which is against Sections 4, 25, 32 and 36 of the 2017 constitution, he said.
Still, he said, since the satellite purchase project had not been scrutinised by parliament, the project could possibly be in breach of Section 178 of the 2017 constitution.
He said the chairman of the board of directors of the Defence Technology Institute already signed a letter of agreement (LOA) in December, a letter of intent (LOI) in March, and a letter of consent (LOC) in April regarding the project.
The signing of these documents was acknowledged by Deputy Prime Minister Prajin Juntong in his capacity as chairman of the committee on national space policy and Deputy Prime Minister Prawit Wongsuwon in his capacity as the defence minister, Mr Srisuwan said.
The Defence Ministry was not available for comment on Sunday.