China tank deal cut 'due to cash woes'
The Royal Thai Army (RTA) has cut the number of Chinese VT-4 battle tanks it wants to buy from 98 to 60 due to insufficient funds, army chief Chalermchai Sittisat said Thursday.
Gen Chalermchai said the 60 new tanks will be divided equally between the 2nd and 3rd Cavalry Battalions in the northeastern provinces of Udon Thani and Khon Kaen.
The new tanks will replace US-made M-41 models which will be decommissioned after having been in service for more than 40 years, he said.
Of the 60 VT-4 tanks, 28 worth four billion baht were purchased by the army last year. The tanks are expected to be delivered late this year.
The army also recently proposed the purchase of 20 additional tanks to the cabinet but only 10, worth two billion baht, were approved. A request to purchase 10 more tanks will be forwarded to the cabinet for approval soon.
As for the remaining 12 tanks, the procurement will be earmarked for the next fiscal year.
Last year, the RTA also cancelled the procurement of 39 T-84 Oplot tanks ordered from Ukraine after only 10 of 49 were delivered to Thailand.
The Defence Ministry said last year that Ukraine had been unable to fulfill orders made by several countries, including Thailand, for military hardware because of internal security problems.
The 10 Oplot tanks are currently stationed at an army base in Prachin Buri province.
Following the problems with the Oplot tank order, the army committee responsible for military hardware procurement has opted to cut the number of tanks to be purchased from Ukraine and buy more from China since Chinese tanks are cheaper.
Gen Chalermchai said procuring tanks from China had nothing to do with international politics but was based on cost.
He said Deputy Prime Minister and Defence Minister Gen Prawit Wongsuwon wants to work with China in developing a defence and weapons industry in Thailand, starting with basic technology.