PM expresses backing for navy's sub plan
Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha voiced support Tuesday for the navy's plan to purchase submarines, saying it is a better option than leaving state money to be misappropriated by others.
Although the purchase proposal has yet to reach cabinet for its consideration, Gen Prayut said the government believes Thailand needs to start thinking about arming the country with this technology and that submarines would not be a waste of money.
The submarines will not be used to wage war, but they can make other countries "stand in awe of us", the premier said.
Protection of trade routes and territorial disputes are just some of the things the navy has to think about in planning maritime strategies and missions, he said.
"If we don't buy submarines, don't we need to protect those routes?" Gen Prayut asked reporters, appearing irritated about growing doubts over the sub purchase plan.
"Or do you want to keep the money to be misappropriated by some people?"
The navy's submarine procurement committee has voted to buy three Chinese-made subs at a price of 12 billion baht each.
Navy commander Adm Kraisorn Chansuvanich said the committee found they were the best value for money compared with submarines produced by Russia, Germany, France, Sweden and South Korea.
With a total budget of 36 billion baht, Thailand can afford only two submarines, with no weaponry, from the other countries.
China, however, "offered us a package" including subs armed with weapons, spare parts for eight years and training for Thai personnel, Adm Krasorn said.
Air Independent Propulsion (AIP) technology also allows Chinese submarines to stay underwater for 21 days, longer than subs from the other countries, he added.
The plan to sign a deal with China is not the result of stronger military ties between Bangkok and Beijing, Gen Prayut said.
He said people should not believe the sub purchase plan has to be pushed through during this government.
It is part of a long-term navy plan that needs careful consideration, he said.
The navy pushed for the purchase of submarines during the Yingluck Shinawatra government, but to no avail. The last submarine purchase was 63 years ago.