Navy: Next government can sink sub order
Adm Luechai warns over B700m deposit
The Royal Thai Navy has said a new government can terminate the approved procurement of a Chinese-made submarine costing 13.5 billion baht, but it has to justify doing so as it will result in the loss of a 700-million-baht down payment by Thailand.
Navy chief of staff, Adm Luechai Ruddit, chairman of the navy's submarine procurement panel, at a news conference held Monday to "clarify" the navy's controversial purchase of the Yuan-class S26T submarine, secretly approved by the cabinet on April 18.
The cabinet previously also approved in principle the purchase of three submarines worth a total of 36 billion baht.
Adm Luechai admitted that the next government could revoke the contract, but before the new government is able to take office after an election expected in late next year, the down payment for the purchase of 700 million baht would have been paid.
So, the new government should come up with a sound reason as to why the submarine procurement plan needs to be scrapped and, if a lack of transparency is the case, it will also have to clarify what part of the procurement involves problems, Adm Luechai said.
According to the purchase plan, the government-to-government format of the procurement is an approach chosen to minimise risk while at the same time boosting confidence in the navy's submarine procurement project.
A 'protest pickup' made it into the Labour Day parade on Monday but apparently was not seen by Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha, who attended a different event. (Photo provided)
The 13.5-billion-baht budget set aside to fund this procurement will be paid over 17 installments spanning seven years, Adm Luechai said.
Some 700 million baht will be paid by this year, after which about 2.1 billion baht per year will be paid from the navy budget which will not add any burden to the country's outlays, he said.
"Please feel comfortable, the budget has not been taken from other ministries," he said.
Adm Luechai defended the purchase by explaining Thailand has not owned a submarine for more than six decades, whereas other nations in the region have such vessels in commission.
The world's security situation is vulnerable and a war can easily erupt after the change of a nation's leader, he said.
"We want to have submarines so that we do not get tangled up in a war," he said, adding that if the kingdom has submarines, other countries would hesitate to wage war on Thailand.
He said the cost of the submarine accounts for only 0.006% of the country's maritime resources, which the navy is obliged to protect.
Under the contract, China will also provide free CM-708 missiles which can be fired from the submarine to the surface of the water or to shore over a range of 290 kilometres -- roughly the distance from Sattahip to Chumphon -- along with other weapons including torpedoes, said Adm Luechai.
"Normally, such a missile is not for sale but China will give it to us for the sake of our relationship," he said.
He said the navy has a plan to construct specially designed docking facilities for submarines both in the Gulf of Thailand and the Andaman Sea.
Vice Admiral Patchara Pumpiched, the navy's deputy chief of staff, said the submarine purchase is not only a necessity for the navy but it is required for the country's security strategy.
"As for those wondering if the [average] depth of 50 metres in the Gulf of Thailand really can accommodate a submarine, such a medium-sized vessel can easily navigate through the gulf as some from the US and its allies did several times during World War II in operations causing substantial damage to Thailand," he said.
"China gives us a two-year warranty, compared to 18 months in the industry, and will send staff to be stationed in Thailand for two years," he said.
After signing the contract with China in May, the navy will send personnel to train in China over the next three years, said V Adm Patchara.