Stop talking about sub, says navy chief
Navy chief warns against public discussion of deal
Navy commander Admiral Ruechai Ruddi has warned the public not to discuss plans to purchase a second Chinese-made submarine worth 12 billion baht, saying the final decision on the deal should be left to the House of Representatives.
Adm Ruechai said the navy does not discuss procurement projects in the media, and now that the government's 3.2-trillion-baht budget is being examined by the House, the issue is sensitive.
Asked if the navy's procurement plan for the 2020 fiscal year remained unchanged, he confirmed that no alterations had been made.
"If you ask me whether the second submarine purchase will go ahead or not, you have to ask the House," he said.
His remarks appear to contradict reports that the navy would suspend the submarine purchase and instead buy less expensive frigates.
Earlier this week Deputy Prime Minister Prawit Wongsuwon insisted the navy would go ahead with plans to buy a second submarine.
The cabinet under the previous coup-appointed government gave the green light to buy three submarines from China worth a total of 36 billion baht.
The navy signed a deal to buy a Yuan Class S26T submarine worth 13.5 billion baht from China in 2017 and paid 700 million baht in the first instalment. Annual payments for the sub worth 2.1 billion baht will be made until 2023.
Its earlier plan to buy six German-made secondhand submarines at a price of 7.7 billion baht was rejected in 2011 during the then-Yingluck Shinawatra government amid doubts over cost-effectiveness and transparency.
In a separate development, the House committee vetting the budget bill has asked the Finance Ministry's Comptrollers-General Department to clarify the proposed allocation of 95 million baht to secure its e-bidding system.
Chaichana Dejdecho, the committee's spokesman, said the panel is not satisfied with the department's defence of the budget and is awaiting further explanation.
He said the committee wants assurances that the 95-million-baht budget will secure the e-bidding system, after arrests were made in Yasothon after suspects claimed to have information for sale.
E-bidding was adopted to replace e-auctions as a way to avoid corruption and price collusion.