Thailand’s Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha has asked the Royal Thai Navy (RTN) to postpone the procurement of two Chinese-made submarines, worth about 22.5 billion baht, for about one year, Government Spokesman Mr. Anucha Burapachaisri said Monday.
He said the RTN will, at a later date, clarify the progress of its negotiations with the Chinese supplier over Thailand’s need to postpone the purchase, so that the 3.375 billion baht, already allocated for the first instalment, can be used to address more pressing problems in the country.
Mr. Anucha insisted that the submarine procurement is under a government-to-government deal and in line with Thai regulations.
The deal has come under heavy criticism from opposition parties, anti-establishment groups, as well as the general public, questioning the RTN’s need for and worthiness of the military hardware at a time when the country is mired in the worst economic crisis it has seen, with many people being rendered jobless and living in hardship.
The opposition Pheu Thai party, in particular, has vowed to oppose the project in the House Budget Scrutiny Committee, whose panel approved the project by 5 votes to 4.
Thailand has placed orders for a total of three submarines from China, worth an estimated 36 billion baht. The first boat has been approved and it is under construction.