Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha has delayed the first payments for two more submarines from China, but the procurement plan remains intact, a government spokesman said on Monday.
Anucha Burapachaisri said the prime minister, who is also defence minister, had held talks with the Defence Ministry and Royal Thai Navy about postponing payments due on two new submarines ordered from China.
The government faced heavy criticism over the plan to procure two more subs after the subcommittee scrutinising the 2021 budget gave the green light for the 22.5-billion-baht budget expenditure.
The navy is already awaiting delivery of its first Yuan Class S26T submarine, due in 2023. The budget committee approved the proposed procurement of two more. The total cost of the three vessels is 36 billion baht.
Mr Anucha said the plan to get two more subs remained unchanged; only the payments would be delayed, pending talks with China.
The money that is withheld would be diverted to fight the coronavirus epidemic, he said.
VAdm Theerakul Kanchana, who oversees the RTN Comptrollers Office, on Monday submitted a letter to the House committee in charge of the budget, confirming the navy's decision to drop the request for funds next fiscal year to pay for the two submarines.