By Thai Newsroom Reporters
DEFENCE MINISTER SUTHIN Khlangsang said today (Oct.24) bilateral cooperation and relationship between Thailand and China would be undesirably affected as a whole if a troublesome Chinese-built submarine deal was scrapped.
Suthin said China has already agreed to provide cooperation and assistance to Thailand during a recent visit to that country by Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin and advised that the 12.4 billion baht submarine purchase deal not be entirely cancelled at the expense of other bilateral agreements.
Former prime minister-cum-defence minister Prayut Chan-o-cha had earlier commented that the submarine purchase contract could have been completely scrapped only if a German-made engine earlier specified for use with the Chinese submarine was unavailable.
Suthin stopped short of elaborating on any details of the latest cooperation and aid agreements between the two countries but insisted that the “government-to-government” dealing for the Yuan-class S26T submarine not be scrapped to the extent that a seven billion baht down payment earlier placed by the Thai navy be otherwise refunded.
The civilian cabinet member suggested that the purchase deal be amended to the extent that a Chinese-built frigate, the type of which is yet to be specified, be procured in lieu of the submarine for which the German MTU396 engine was definitely unavailable.
Suthin said the Thai side will promptly negotiate the sought-after amendment to the submarine purchase deal which is scheduled to expire next month.
A Chinese frigate to procure in lieu of the S26T will sell for about 14 billion baht and not as much as 17 billion baht as earlier reported, he said.
A couple of frigates including the one to procure from China in place of the submarine will be bought with the Thai navy’s budget for fiscal 2024, he said.
The Thai navy currently deploys six Chinese-built frigates including two Naresuan-class and four Chao Phraya-class frigates.
Top: A representative image of the Chinese submarine deal. Credit: Thai Rath
Front Page:Defence Minister Suthin Khlangsang, left, and a Chinese submarine, right. Photo: Matichon