Updated: The military junta and its deadly toys

7 11 2015

Coconuts Bangkok has a link to an AFP report that raises some disturbing issues.

Of course, observers may expect that the military’s budget will increase when it has political power. Between 2006 and 2016, the Thai military’s budget will have tripled, from 78.1 billion baht to 207 billion baht. The story concludes that “[t]he kingdom’s well-oiled military has been handsomely rewarded in the last decade…”.

At the recent Defense & Security 2015 fair at Bangkok’s Impact Arena, “French anti-tank missiles, Swedish jets and American assault rifles” were on display despite the fact that “Western governments have criticised Thailand’s junta for toppling democracy…”. The report states that “more than 400 companies from 50 countries are showing their wares — including Britain’s BAE Systems, France’s Thales, Italy’s Finmeccanica and Lockheed Martin, from the United States.” The U.S. has recently approved missile sales to Thailand. Indeed, it is business as usual.

The report says that “Russian arms manufacturer Bazalt was even advertising a cluster bomb — the PBK-500U SPBE-K.” Another report from another arms bazaar describes this as:

The PBK-500U glide cluster bomb dispenser (the Russian acronym translates to glide bomb cassette, 500-kg caliber) is a single-use weapon that houses either a single warhead or multiple cassette elements. Unlike the previous generation, the PBK-500U can deploy at longer distances to enable standoff attack capability for tactical aircraft acting against targets with pinpoint anti-aircraft defenses.

The Thai military was accused of using cluster bombs on the Cambodian border under the Abhisit Vejjajiva regime.

Appealing to the Thai military might have been an armored 4×4 from an Emirati company said to be designed for “dispersing potentially violent crowd gatherings.”

A file photo from the Bangkok Post

A file photo from the Bangkok Post

Defense budgets are growing across the region. In Thailand, the report states that the “generous approach to its armed forces has not been without controversy, especially given the stuttering post-coup economy…. Critics say the military — which boasts one of the highest proportion of generals in the world — has a penchant for big ticket purchases it doesn’t need, including an aircraft carrier which currently has no aircraft.”

They do this for commissions that make them wealthy. Think submarines, GT200 magic wands, Russian planes for the monarchy (or maybe not), multiple suppliers of jet engines for THAI planes, and so on.

Update: Ukraine Today reports that “Ukraine and Thailand on November 3 signed a cooperation agreement on co-manufacturing armoured personnel carriers BTR-3 in Thailand…”. Deals between the two countries have been questioned in the past.

Updated: Which cluster munitions did the Army use?

10 04 2011

A reader has sent information on the cluster munitions used by the Thai Army. The reader states that the Army “purchased French 155mm towed artillery units which would have included their projectiles. The projectiles recovered near Preah Vihear seem to be French 155mm NR269. They have details stamped on them, and photos of these may soon be available. This projectile’s payload consists of 56 x M46 grenades.

It seems clear that the Thai authorities are continuing the cover up.

Update: Another reader points this out from a Bangkok Post story: “A source in the army said the weapon in question could be the Caesar self-propelled howitzer, whose artillery burst into bomblets. The army suspended its use after the border clashes in February.” More details on the weapons here. This from Jane’s:

The 155 mm PRB/Giat Industries NR-269 and Denel 155 mm HC Cluster M1 SM ERFB-BB Cargo projectiles follow the same overall design outlines and may be described together. The shell body is made of high-grade steel and is a variation of the 155 mm ERFB-BB BE Smoke projectile …. As such it retains the typical ERFB streamlined outline, (which is the same as the 155 mm ERFB HE projectile…), with a continuous ogive almost the entire length of the body down to the copper or gilding metal drive band and plastic obturator band. A Base Bleed (BB) unit is normally threaded to the projectile base with an adaptor to interface with the bomblet payload. Some rounds may be produced and supplied without the base bleed unit.

The 155 mm ERFB-BB Cargo projectile contains 56 bomblets of the M46 type, although the Denel (SWARTKLIP Products) bomblets differ in some details from those used with the PRB/Giat Industries NR 269. The bomblets are dual-purpose antipersonnel/anti-armour devices stacked using splined spacers in eight layers, each containing seven bomblets. In each row the hollow charges face towards the projectile

The 155 mm ERFB-BB Cargo projectile carries a nose-mounted MT, MTSQ or electronic fuze, typically a MTSQ M577A1. This fuze is set to function at a height of approximately 500 to 600 m above the target area. As the fuze functions it ignites an expulsion charge which creates an internal pressure to bear down on a pusher plate. The pusher plate forces the payload to the rear, separating the base bleed unit from the projectile body and expelling the individual bomblets at an initial velocity of about 100 m/s. As they emerge from the projectile base they are dispersed by centrifugal forces produced by the projectile spin to cover an oval-shaped ground area measuring approximately 120 to 130 m wide and 110 to 120 m deep – this area will vary according to expulsion altitude and local wind conditions.

Each bomblet trails a ribbon which is deployed as the bomblet leaves the projectile. This reduces the rotation rate of the bomblet and at the same time unscrews a threaded rod a few turns, thereby allowing the detonator to arm. As the bomblet impacts a firing pin can then detonate the explosive. Each bomblet contains a shaped charge consisting of approximately 30 g of Composition A5 or a similar explosive, sufficient to penetrate a minimum of 60 mm of armour and spread anti-personnel steel fragments over a lethal radius of 7 m. Bomblets produced for the Denel 155 mm HE HC Cluster M1 and M1A2 Wasp rounds have an improved detonating system and a fail-safe self-destruct system.

Reports indicate some “fail-safe self-destruct systems” is anything but fail-safe.


Cluster bombs used, not cluster bombs

9 04 2011

Is that header confusing? It should be, because that is what the Abhisit Vejjajiva government and its military are trying to do: confuse this important issue.

There is considerable evidence that Thai forces used cluster munitions when fighting broke out with Cambodian forces in February. The Thai side has realized the enormity of this being stated in the international media and has begun covering up.

That cover up has now seen several comments made that amount to this: “Thailand had used DPICM, not cluster munitions.”

As Cluster Munition Coalition (CMC) director Laura Cheeseman says, “How Thailand could come to such a conclusion is baffling…. The DPICM is the classic example of a cluster munition, which is essentially a large canister that opens up after deployment to disperse many submunitions over a wide area.”

Actually, it is not baffling. The Thai military is used to lying and covering up, as well as expecting impunity for its actions. This is normal and routine in Thailand.

The Nation says: “… Foreign Ministry spokesman Thani Thongpakdi said the Thai side had used DPICM, which could not be considered ‘cluster munitions’. The main purpose of using this weapon was to retaliate against the Russian-made BM21 multi-rocket launcher that was used indiscriminately by Cambodia…. He added that the weapon was used in “self-defence”, under the principles of “necessity, proportionality and in compliance with the military code of conduct”.

Seems clear that the Thai forces deployed the DPICM – a cluster munition – while the Cambodians are said to have used a standard and pretty old rocket launcher. Everything else is chatter designed to confuse the issue long enough for it to fade, being replaced by another headline. That’s standard practice for this government (think forced repatriation sveral times, inhumane treatment of migrant workers, censorship, political prisoners, etcetra, etcetera).

As far as PPT can tell, Prime Minister Abhisit has remained silent on this matter. That’s a pretty good indication that he sees this issue as a no-win situation for him. Teflon Mark wants to distance himself from this “traditional” cover up that will, as always, see no action against the “beloved” military backers of the regime.

Covering up

7 04 2011

We almost said it in our post yesterday: that the Army and Abhisit Vejjajiva government would quickly deny the claim that cluster munitions were ever used. And now they have.

Prawit (Bangkok Post photo)

Defence Minister Prawit Wongsuwon is quoted in the Bangkok Post as denying the use of any cluster munitions. He has “rejected claims the army used cluster bombs in breach of an international agreement during border clashes with Cambodia in early February.” He stated:  “No cluster bombs here. We have strictly complied with international laws banning their use…”.

Prawit is kind of supported by the Thai ambassador to the UN in Geneva Sihasak Phuangketkeow who issued a denial. He said:

the Thai army used cluster munitions during the Thai-Cambodian border skirmishes. Mr Sihasak spoke to the Bangkok Post in a phone interview from Geneva yesterday saying he said the Thai army used Dual-Purpose Improved Conventional Munitions (DPICM) which it did not classify as a cluster munition. For other groups, however, DPICM are indeed regarded as cluster munitions.

It seems this is the official line: we used DPICM and while others say they are cluster munitions (see PPT’s post), the Thais say they aren’t, so that’s it. In other words, cluster munitions were used but they are not cluster munitions by “Thai-style” definition. A bit like the claims made about the Army not killing anybody in its actions against red shirts.

If the various claims are to be believed, this is worse than disgusting.

More government lies

6 04 2011

The Bangkok Post has this remarkable statement from the ever-acting government spokesman Panitan Wattanayagorn related to an earlier post at PPT. We at PPT think that Panitan is telling lies. We guess that is what an acting government spokesman is paid to do. Here’s the report:


Acting government spokesman Panitan Wattanayagorn Wednesday said the Thai army had explained to the public that the munitions it had used to attack Cambodian soldiers were not considered the same type of cluster munitions that the CMC [Cluster Munition Coalition] mentioned.

PPT thinks this is an outright lie that he is repeating on behalf of the Army and the Abhisit Vejjajiva government. He continued:

Mr Panitan said in fact there were several types of cluster munitions being used in several countries but it depends on how each army categorises them.

He said the Thai army used Dual-Purpose Improved Conventional Munitions (DPICM) which is artillery designed to attack missiles and Thailand does not consider it a cluster bomb.

Okay, we admit that no-one at PPT is a munitions expert, but even Wikipedia says this: “A Dual-Purpose Improved Conventional Munitions (DPICM) is an artillery or surface-to-surface missile warhead designed to burst into sub-munitions at an optimum altitude and distance from the desired target for dense area coverage. The sub-munitions are designed for both antiarmor and antipersonnel attack. Some sub-munitions may be designed for delayed reaction or mobility denial (mines). The air-to-surface variety of this kind of munition is better known as a cluster bomb.”

From the Bangkok Post: The Israeli made cluster ammunition (DPICM) is fired from artillery. Thai forces used M85 cluster ammunition, similar to those in this graphic on the Israeli weapons.

Landmine Action has this fact sheet. There is also an excellent Norwegian report (a large PDF) on the kind of munition claimed to be used by the Thai Army. And, the Bangkok Post has a diagram in its article mentioning the M-85 munition the Army uses. Conclusion: more lies.

Laura Cheeseman, director of the CMC is right to observe:

It’s appalling that any country would resort to using cluster munitions after the international community banned them….

Thailand has been a leader in the global ban on anti-personnel mines, and it is unconscionable that it used banned weapons that indiscriminately kill and injure civilians in a similar manner.

While Thailand has not signed the Convention on Cluster Munitions, it joined a 1997 landmine ban treaty. This makes the Army’s actions and denials truly appalling.

PPT wonders how Panitan can even sleep at night. It must be that he sees protecting the reprehensible as essential to maintaining the royalist regime and that protecting the regime justifies murder and maiming.

Updated: Thai use of cluster munitions in Cambodia condemned

6 04 2011

Bangkok Pundit has a very important post on the denial and now admission by the Abhisit Vejjajiva government that its troops have used cluster bombs against Cambodia. The Abhisit government and its military repeatedly denied the use of cluster bombs when the Cambodian government first made the claim of their use. Read the whole post by BP where this is detailed.

Here is the bit PPT thinks is really important from the Cluster Munition Monitor report:

In a meeting on 5 April, the Thai Ambassador to the UN in Geneva confirmed Thai use of 155mm Dual Purpose Improved Conventional Munition (DPICM) cluster munitions. The Ambassador said Thailand used cluster munitions “in self-defence”, using the principles of “necessity, proportionality and in compliance with the military code of conduct”. He alleged heavy use of rocket fire by Cambodian forces against civilian targets in Satisuk, in the Khun Khan district of Thailand.

A variety of the munitions used by the Thai army

The report also refers to CMC’s on-site investigations. The admission and the investigations cause the CMC to state:

This is the first use of cluster munitions anywhere in the world since the 2008 Convention on Cluster Munitions entered into force and became binding international law. The CMC condemns any use of cluster munitions, and urges Thailand and Cambodia to immediately commit to no future use and to accede to the global treaty banning the weapons.

The CMC is clear that these Thai weapons were used in civilian areas. It states:

Sister Denise Coghlan, a CMC leader who took part in the first research mission said, “These cluster munitions have already robbed two men of their lives, two more have lost their arms and a further five were injured. The area must be cleared immediately to prevent more suffering. Cambodia must make every effort to ensure the safety of civilians.”

There is more in the report and pictures are available.

More international condemnation should be expected of a regime and its military that appear rogue in their use of violence in domestic and international arenas.

Update: Linking this condemnation of the use of inhumane weapons with the Thai military’s continued rejection of any international scrutiny of their actions is inevitable. The Bangkok Post has the latest rejection. Supreme Commander Songkitti Chakkrabat says “Indonesian observers will not be allowed to enter the disputed border area surrounding the centuries-old Preah Vihear temple…”. Or anywhere else it seems. The Post says this is the “first time Thai military leaders have formally announced their position on the issue.” That may be formally correct although the military’s rejectionist stand has been abundantly clear.

General Songkitti “said the Thai military has adhered to bilateral commitments between the two countries.” So we can assume that includes artillery shelling on both sides and the Thai use of inhumane cluster bombs?

Let’s be clear. The Thai military has flagrantly abused its power for decades. It is a corrupt political organization that is able to maintain its abuse of human rights because its power is critical to the maintenance of the monarchy and ruling class. The border dispute is yet another example of this corruption of power. When it spills over into the international arena – in the use of cluster bombs, the forced repatriation of refugees and the abuse of migrants to Thailand, it is protected by the opacity of the current regime (and past regimes; think Tak Bai and Kru Se under Thaksin Shinawatra) and the ruling class’s fears and needs.

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