What happened to those “cheap” tanks the Thai generals ordered from the Ukraine? We know where the “commissions” went, but why are the current crop of generals now looking for tanks from other places? A reader contributed this post, to which added some earlier detail and edited.
Sputnik reports that the there are “delays in the delivery of Ukrainian-made Oplot tanks are making Thailand look to Russia and China for alternatives to Ukrainian military equipment.”
Huh? Delays? Does this remind readers of something else with Ukraine in the contract details? Long ago, following a shopping trip by General Prayuth Chan-ocha, we wrote:
At the Bangkok Post there is a report that Army chief Prayuth Chan-ocha says the Ukraine will deliver its first batch of T-84 Oplot battle tanks in May. The first post PPT had on this was back in May 2011, when the Abhisit government rushed to spend money and to buy more support from the military in a 18-hour marathon cabinet meeting that, amongst other spending, included “a budget of 7 billion baht for the army to buy 54 T-84 OPLOT 54A tanks from the Ukraine…”.
On this purchase we wrote that when we first posted on a lack of transparency on military spending, the Army under General Anupong Paojinda sought approval in 2011 to buy an additional 121 armoured personnel carriers from the Ukraine even though it had yet to receive any of the vehicles it ordered in 2007. Apparently there were engine problems.
Sputnik says the tank order was worth $240 million and was with the Ukrainian company Ukrspetsexport. It says that sources say that “by the end of 2015, only ten tanks were delivered to the Royal Thai Army. Such delays have caused concern among senior officials…”. The “officials” are probably General Prayuth, as he initially demanded a “speedy delivery.”
It goes on to say that “representatives of Ukrspetsexport say that another five tanks will be delivered in the beginning of 2016…”. Yet the delays mean the deal is coming undone as the delays lengthen.
The report says that this has led to the “the creation of a new special Thai committee to evaluate alternatives to the T-84…”. It says the Army is now looking at two contenders: the Russian-made T-90 (or T-90MS) and the Chinese-made VT-4 (or MBT-3000). It isn’t clear that the latter tank is yet in use. For those interested in currently available battle tanks, see here.
Tanks in Thailand are synonymous with the military coup. Having better kit may make the Army feel stronger, but it is doubtful that any of the current military leadership has any particular experience of battle tanks, with the last use of them in conflict probably having been in the 1980s.
We are sure that the main driving forces in the proposed purchases are “commissions” and the junta’s political perceptions of international friends and enemies.