Subs torpedoed

6 04 2012

It is confirmed: the navy’s plan to buy used German diesel-powered submarines has been sunk. Earlier PPT posts on the earlier push for the U-boats are here: Give then subs!; Navy submarines resurface; Arms trading and the royals; and Corruption and the military.

But the report at the Bangkok Post also describes some rather disturbing descriptions of how decisions are made in the military:

A navy source said the proposed project had faced several stumbling blocks. First, there was a rumour the navy and the Defence Ministry had forwarded the plan to His Majesty the King for consideration. The navy still remembered His Majesty’s advice made in his remarks on the eve of his birthday in 2007. The King said submarines might not be suitable for Thailand as the underwater vessels could be bogged down in mud in the Gulf of Thailand.

But Supreme Commander Tanasak Patimapakorn strongly denied the rumour. “Rumour is rumour. His Majesty was never involved in this issue,” he said in a meeting with armed forces commanders at the navy head office on March 13.

A navy source said the rumour was spread as a tactic to block the plan to buy the German submarines.

Of course, the king was involved. Indeed, for some time, the king wasknown to be opposed to the navy having a submarine but seemed to change his mind following the coup. In his 2007 birthday speech, the king was cited on Russian subs: “A Russian one may cost just half the price of a German-made or a US-made one, but if we bought one from Russia, the US, for instance, might be upset. However, Russian submarines are very good.”* The story continues:

Then, it was believed that Privy Council president Prem Tinsulanonda did not give the green light to the project and the plan was also attacked by many former and present navy officers who were disappointed at seeing themselves stranded or moved to unfavourable positions in the military reshuffle last year.

While the navy chief has finally admitted the project is at an end, PPT can only wonder at the notion that significant decisions about strategic matters and involving millions upon millions of baht are somehow consigned to the purview of men with no known skills, training or expertise.

*Interestingly, Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout is about to be has just been sentenced in the U.S. after his capture in Thailand and extradition to the U.S.  For the alleged royal link, see PPT’s link to a New York Times article.


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