Navy defends decision to buy three Chinese-made tanks

Navy defends decision to buy three Chinese-made tanks

Approval for VN16s 'came before Covid'

One of the three Chinese-made VN16 light tanks purchased by the navy at a cost of 398 million baht. The three tanks will be commissioned at the Marine Division in Chon Buri. Wassana Nanuam
One of the three Chinese-made VN16 light tanks purchased by the navy at a cost of 398 million baht. The three tanks will be commissioned at the Marine Division in Chon Buri. Wassana Nanuam

The Royal Thai Navy (RTN) on Tuesday defended its purchase of three Chinese-made tanks, saying the procurement was approved before the Covid-19 pandemic outbreak.

Responding to criticism of the delivery of three VN16 tanks, RTN spokesman, Adm Chettha Chaipiam, said the 398-million-baht procurement project was approved in fiscal year 2020 so the country was committed to buying them.

During Monday's budget bill debate, the opposition questioned why the tanks arrived in Thailand before the anticipated Covid-19 vaccines, which are a greater priority. The observation sparked criticism on social media against the government.

VN16 is the exported version of the Chinese-made ZTD-05, an amphibious light tank designed and manufactured by China Ordnance Industries Group Corp Ltd, aka China North Industries Group Corp Ltd (NORINCO).

According to a source, the order for the three tanks was placed in June last year and the tanks arrived in Thailand last week. The tanks will be assigned to the Marine Division in Chon Buri's Sattahip district, said the same source.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha said he has had talks with Deputy Prime Minister and Public Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul, also the leader of Bhumjaithai Party, over the party's stance against the government's new budget allocation plan.

Gen Prayut said he explained to Mr Anutin that money from sources other than the 2022 budget is set aside for funding the Public Health Ministry's handling of the Covid-19 outbreak in lieu of the ministry's slashed budgets.

The PM was responding to a remark by Bhumjaithai MP for Uthai Thani Chada Thaised, who in the budget bill debate criticised the government for cutting the ministry's budget and urged Mr Anutin to withdraw from the collation.

Gen Prayut refused to comment and simply walked away when asked on Tuesday if the coalition remained united.

According to government spokesman Anucha Burapachaisri, Mr Anutin on Tuesday explained at the cabinet meeting that a misunderstanding had occurred before it was revealed that 293 billion baht and another 311 million baht has already been set aside for containing the Covid-19 outbreak.

During Tuesday's budget debate, Bhumjaithai list MP, Korrawee Prissananantakul accused the government of trying to slash the Public Health Ministry's proposed budget by 4 billion baht.

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