Purchase of two subs delayed, not ditched: Prayut
The navy has deferred its planned purchase of a second and a third Chinese-made submarines worth 22.5 billion baht amid mounting political pressure but the deal will not be scrapped, Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha said yesterday.
About three billion baht in instalment payments for the subs, earmarked for the next fiscal year, is being shelved.
Gen Prayut says the navy will hold talks with China over yet another delay -- last year's initial instalments were also put on hold and the money diverted to help fight Covid-19.
However, the submarines are a key part of the armed forces' development, so the purchase can only be delayed, he said.
The navy has attended international naval drills for many years, even though it has no submarines to deploy in the exercises, he said.
It also needed the right weapons and equipment for maritime defence and protection of the country's vast marine resources inside and outside its 200-nautical mile territorial waters.
Without any submarines, the navy would need to deploy a large contingent of soldiers to carry out defence duties, which would carry a prohibitive cost, the premier added.
Gen Prayut said he had already informed navy chief Adm Luechai Ruddit about the postponed purchase.
Yuttapong Charasathien, deputy chairman of the House sub-committee which will vet next year's budget, said next fiscal year's instalment money for the subs should also be spent on overcoming the coronavirus.
Government spokesman Anucha Burapachaisri vowed to publish details of the navy's talks with China about the decision to delay the contract.
Mr Anucha was asked if the postponement was simply intending to ease political pressure on the government.
On the contrary, he said, it showed Gen Prayut listened to public opinion on key issues.