BANGKOK – Maj-General Kongcheep Tantravanich of Thailand’s Defence Ministry reported on Wednesday that the purchase of 34 Chinese armoured personnel carriers at a cost of Bt2.3 billion was necessary in the interests of national security as well as to protect national sovereignty.
The procurement was approved at the weekly Cabinet meeting of the junta-backed government on Tuesday despite concerns the country’s economy was stagnant.
Maj-General Kongcheep Tantravanich said the purchase was part of the plan to provide armoured personnel carriers in the second phase between this year and 2020. The reserve budget had already been included in the Army’s reinforcement plan, he explained.
Kongcheep said the 34 Chinese VN-1 would replace the V-150 model and the M113 armoured personnel carriers, which had been in service for nearly four and five decades respectively.
The Defence Ministry spokesman said the procurement should not be seen as a wasteful expenditure. The equipment is needed by the Army to protect national sovereignty and national interest, he said.
“We insist that this is a necessity. The current model is more than 50 years old and out of service,” Kongcheep said.
The purchase was in accordance with the National Economic and Social Development plan, he added. It considered well the budget, the appropriateness of the purchase and the state of the economy, the spokesman insisted.
The purchase had the support of Army experts, he said, adding, the decision to buy from China was because of military cooperation between the two sides, which included China helping build a maintenance depot, making it cost effective.
Kongcheep said that future purchases would be made on the principle that the suppliers build a maintenance depot or an assembly plant in Thailand.
Source: The Nation