'Unwanted' vehicles to be used in UN mission

'Unwanted' vehicles to be used in UN mission

A fleet of 15 locally made armoured multi-purpose vehicles is prepared for a hand-over ceremony to the Bhutanese government at the permanent secretary for defence's office in Nonthaburi. Pornprom Satrabhaya
A fleet of 15 locally made armoured multi-purpose vehicles is prepared for a hand-over ceremony to the Bhutanese government at the permanent secretary for defence's office in Nonthaburi. Pornprom Satrabhaya

A fleet of 15 locally made armoured vehicles was handed over to Bhutan on Friday amid criticism the Thai military is not interested in using domestically made military equipment.

Chaichan Changmongkol, deputy minister of defence, presided over the handing over of 15 First Win 4x4 vehicles made by Chaiseri Metal & Rubber Co to the Bhutanese government during a ceremony at the permanent secretary for defence's office in Nonthaburi.

Kinzang Dorji, ambassador of Bhutan, was present at the ceremony. The vehicles will reportedly be used during a United Nation's peacekeeping mission in the Central African Republic next month.

During the ceremony, Gen Chaichan said Thailand and Bhutan have maintained good relations, adding the handover of the locally made vehicles means that Thailand will also be involved in the UN mission.

He said the government has a policy to develop the local defence industry to achieve self-reliance in this sector and export locally made military equipment.

Gen Worakiat Rattananont, permanent secretary for defence, said the Bhutanese government decided to buy the armoured vehicles from the company because it was confident in the quality of the products and the company's capabilities, adding they come with an affordable price tag.

According to a source, the 15 vehicles cost 225 million baht in total or about 15 million baht each.

Nopparat Kulhiran, founder of the company, said the firm is proud that it can deliver the armoured vehicles to Bhutan. She said the vehicles have passed military standards set by the Defence Ministry, adding the vehicles were made by an experienced company.

However, the armed forces appeared to be reluctant in using the armoured vehicles made by the company, she said.

In 2019, Thai troops were to be deployed for a UN peacekeeping mission in South Sudan, and the company designed an armoured medical transport vehicle to support their mission, she said.

However, the armed forces said they had no money to buy the vehicles, and when the company offered to donate them to the military, they rejected the offer saying the law didn't allow the practice.

"We were disappointed because we fully devoted our time to building the armoured medical vehicles," Ms Nopparat said. "When the UN learned that the vehicles were rejected by the Thai military, the UN agreed to buy them instead."

Military sources said the Internal Security Operations Command bought 10 armoured vehicles from the company for use in the southern region while the army and navy ordered five each.

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