Home > World News > Thai Purchases of Six Second-hand Submarines from Germany to Protect Sea and Gulf of Thailand

Thai Purchases of Six Second-hand Submarines from Germany to Protect Sea and Gulf of Thailand

Thai navy in line for first subs fleet. PM approves purchase, attacked as vote buying 

Prime Minister Abhisit has signed off on the purchase of six of these
second-hand U206 submarines from Germany for 7.7 billion baht – quickly
derided by critics as pandering to the military. (Photo by Bundesarchiv)
Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva has approved
the Royal Thai Navy’s 7.7-billion-baht purchase of six second-hand
submarines from Germany for the first-ever missions to protect national
interests in the Andaman Sea and the Gulf of Thailand, a navy source
says.
The military operation, to be overseen by the navy’s new submarine
unit, will be carried out in conjunction with training exercises for
navy officers who will for the first time be trained in submarine
technology and underwater missions with Thai-owned submarines.
Rear Admiral Suriya Pornsuriya has been appointed the first commander of the submarine unit, the source said.
“These submarines will travel at a depth of 30 metres,” the source
said. “Don’t believe rumours they can’t run in the Gulf of Thailand
because the sea is too shallow. They can work well there.”
The six submarines are of the U-206 Class.
They are operated by diesel engines and electric motors and are designed for coastal patrol operations.
The German navy has used them for more than 30 years and is going to
decommission them. However, the source said they can still be used for
another 10 years.
The Royal Thai Navy decided to buy them after a two-year feasibility
study for their use in Thailand. One reason, besides educational and
military purposes, is that Thailand has never had a fleet of submarines
which makes the Thai navy “outdated”, the source said.
A recent meeting between Mr Abhisit, Defence Minister Prawit
Wongsuwon and navy commander-in-chief Adm Kamthorn Pumhiran was
“satisfactory” as the premier supported the purchase, the source said.
The purchase plan will be forwarded to the cabinet for formal approval in the near future.
It is part of a long-term weapons acquisition scheme granted by the
Abhisit government to the army, navy and air force. They are allowed to
draft plans to buy weapons over a 10-year period at a total cost of
more than 500 billion baht.
“This scheme has been criticised for favouring and awarding soldiers who continually support the government,” the source said.
The scheme may also encourage soldiers to support the Democrat Party
in the coming general election because all weapon purchase plans will
continue under the Democrat-led government, he said.
Surachart Bamrungsuk, a lecturer at Chulalongkorn University’s
faculty of political science, said he disagreed with the prime
minister’s plan to purchase the six submarines at a time when the
country is facing economic hardship.
He said Thailand had no real need for the submarines.
“I believe [the plan to buy the submarines] is a government populist policy to gain votes from military officers,” he said.
Mr Surachart said the cabinet needed to seriously review the navy’s
purchase plan since the project would involve more money if the
submarines’ maintenance cost was included.
He said people concerned have long debated the need to have
submarines but the issue had never been finalised. The navy has long
pushed for the purchase of submarines, reasoning it wanted its
personnel to learn about underwater missions.
The Banharn Silpa-archa administration had once sought the
acquisition of Swedish Kockums submarines in 1995 but the proposal came
under fire for its lack of transparency and was aborted.
Government spokesman Panitan Wattanayagorn said he could not confirm
the navy had won the prime minister’s support for the purchase plan
although he said he was aware the navy had studied the acquisition
proposal “for some time”.
Bangkok Post
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Categories: World News
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