The Thai navy will ask for Cabinet approval to buy its first submarine in 65 years, the country’s defence minister said on Friday.
Prawit Wongsuwan, also Thailand’s deputy prime minister, said the submarines will cost $1 billion in total, with payments made over ten years. The first Chinese-mad Yuan class S26T submarines will be bought from the 2017 budget.
Thailand’s military took power in May 2014. The purchase of a major weapons system from China has political ramifications, as the ruling junta has sought closer ties with China to balance ties to the US, which has criticised Thailand in recent years.
The navy has been seeking to buy submarines for a decade, having decommissioned its last subs in 1951. In recent years, it has also considered purchasing the vessels from Germany or South Korea. A $15 submarine base and training centre was inaugurated in July 2014.
When the navy revived its plan last year, it was delayed being submitted to the Cabinet after criticism that it would be wasteful, and that the Gulf of Thailand is too shallow for submarines to operate efficiently.
Prawit said the subs would be useful as Thailand has resources in the Andaman Sea to protect, and because neighbouring countries are also buying them.
SOURCE: The New York Times.