04 October 2011

Navy Pushes for Submarines Plan

SSK U-206

New navy chief Surasak Runroengrom still hopes the plan to buy used submarines from Germany will be considered by the cabinet today despite opposition from the Defence Ministry.

The expectation is based on his retired predecessor Kamthorn Phumhiran's claim that he met a phu yai (influential person) in the government who agrees in principle to the deal with Germany.

"I will push ahead with the plan," Adm Surasak said yesterday, adding that the navy has asked the German defence ministry to extend the deal settlement period again after the Sept 30 deadline.

Earlier this year, during the Abhisit Vejjajiva administration, the navy asked Germany to extend the sale period after the 7.5-billion-baht plan to buy six used German U206A submarines did not receive approval from the Defence Council.

The plan faced a setback again with the Yingluck Shinawatra government when Defence Minister Yutthasak Sasiprapa rejected the plan following a study by a special panel appointed to consider its merits.

Gen Yutthasak wants the navy to conduct a review on the cost-effectiveness of the plan and stressed the need for a transparent procurement.

Adm Surasak said the navy had reduced the purchase cost to 6.9 billion baht from 7.5 billion. He insisted the submarines are needed to make Thailand "strategically equal" to neighbouring countries.

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