More suppliers means more “commissions”

18 05 2016

The Nation reports that Army boss General Theerachai Nakawanich has “defended the decision to purchase main battle tanks [MBTs] from China, saying Chinese hardware is of high quality and performance.” He “explained” that he knew this “since I personally went to see them…”.

Hmm. Theerachai has:

been Director of TMB Bank Public Company Limited since November 2,2015. General Nakwanich serves as Commander in Chief of Royal Thai Army at Metropolitan Electricity Authority. He serves as Secretary of National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) and Member of the National Legislative Assembly. He received Bachelor of Science, Chulachomklao Royal Military Academy, and Diploma of RTA Command and General Staff College. He also completed the programme of National Defence College.

Tanks aren’t listed. But Thailand has hundreds of tanks, of six types, some quite old, so we might assume he’s seen one and sat in it.

The Army has reportedly signed a contract with China’s Norinco for the MBT 3000 main battle tanks, also known as VT4. The tanks would be delivered from 2017. Thailand is the first and, so far, only buyer. The tank is a relatively new version, with a review of it here. One assessment is that “this tank is no match for modern Western MBTs.”

The Army has been having trouble with new tanks because the Ukrainian T-84 Oplot deliveries are way behind schedule.

In 2011, the Army ordered 49 Oplot tanks and only about 10 have arrived. The general says the Oplots will arrive.

If one looks at the Army’s arms purchases, it is noticeable how much kit is acquired and from many suppliers. Often relatively untried equipment is purchased. The reason for this pattern has to do with “commissions” and spreading these out. Each new commander simply loves the idea of new kit. And the boss changes regularly, allowing them to be rewarded and to reward themselves.





Getting tanked

9 02 2016

Exactly a month ago, PPT asked: What happened to those “cheap” tanks the Thai generals ordered from the Ukraine?

We can guess where the “commissions” went, but why are the current crop of generals now looking for tanks from other places?

Initially, the whole idea was poo-pooed by the junta’s spokesmen. No, they said, no Russian tanks. But that story has changed. (In other words, they were telling untruths last month.)

Today, the Bangkok Post states the “army changed stories … admitting it plans to buy new tanks, saying it is in the process of setting up a procurement committee.” Yep, they certainly were lying last time. One of those lying was Defense Minister General Prawit Wongsuwan.

2006 coup

2006 coup, with US tanks used

Army spokesman Colonel Winthai Suvaree continued the lies, saying “the army’s procurement panel will consider all possible options before making a decision based on cost-effectiveness and transparency.” He meant to say that the decision will be made on who is going to take the “commissions” and allocate them to loyalists. (It seems like the lucky moneybags will be General Prawit.)

The Army has had to admit that it is considering “purchasing Russian-made tanks” because Prawit is off to Russia soon and “reportedly plans to inspect this model of tank.” He’s taking Deputy Prime Minister Somkid Jatusripitak with him. Of course, Somkid is the main finance and economics cabinet member, so his acquiescence will smooth the money flows. The Dictator, General Prayuth Chan-ocha, is also scheduled to visit Russia in May.

As PPT posted earlier, “Prawit and army chief Gen Thirachai Nakwanich are proceeding carefully with the tank procurement plan following the delayed delivery of T-84 Oplot tanks from Ukraine…”. The generals blame “internal political turmoil as the reason for the hold-up.” That is, in the Ukraine, not Thailand.

Tanks are seldom used in Thailand, and sometimes roll out for a coup.

Only 10 of the ordered 50 T-84 Oplot tanks have been delivered. We can only wonder what deal is being done on this. Is money lost? Will “commissions” need to be repaid? Perhpas a new Chinese or Russian deal for their versions of the T-90 tank will square things up and be cause for celebration. Vodka is good when wanting to get tanked.





Tanking

10 01 2016

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.Nuamthong, taxi and tank

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.





Army and Ukraine purchases

5 01 2013

What is it that sees the Royal Thai Army buying a considerable amount of its kit from the Ukraine?

Thai generals shopping in the Ukraine

Thai generals shopping in the Ukraine

In earlier posts, PPT has discussed the purchase of armored personnel carriers from the Ukraine. Back then, we first posted about the lack of transparency on military spending that saw the account of the army “seeking approval to buy an additional 121 armoured personnel carriers from the Ukraine even though it has yet to receive any of the vehicles it ordered three years ago.” Apparently, according to a Bangkok Post story, “[then] army chief Anupong Paojinda has decided to spend his forces’ leftover funds for this year on 121 APCs from the Ukraine, which has yet to deliver the 96 vehicles ordered in 2007.” The story on the APCs became a long one. As might be expected, there were questions regarding cost and possible corruption and commissions and the billions shoveled to the military by the Abhisit Vejjajiva regime. Naturally, there were also problems with the APCs suggesting issues like those surrounding the Army’s infamous deflating, crashing, and senseless purchase of a zeppelin from a non-company in the U.S.

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…”.

Nuamthong, taxi and tank

A Wikipedia Commons photo

Tanks in Thailand are synonymous with the military coup. They are most often used in Thailand when the Army is thinking about or engaged in a coup.

One of the most significant moments in the development of opposition to the 2006 coup was when on 30 September 2006, Nuamthong Praiwan drove his taxi, spray painted with the words “[CDR is] destroying the country,” and “Sacrificing life”, into an M41  tank at the Royal Plaza. Nuamthong, who later committed suicide in another political statement against the coup, said: “I did it intentionally to protest the junta that has destroyed our country, and I painted all the words myself…”.

It seems that five tanks will arrive in May, with another 50 tanks due by the end of 2015. The army has ordered a grand total of 200 of these tanks. Like the zeppelin, it seems that the Thai military is the only buyer for this tank, at least at present. To us, that solitary fact should sound alarm bells that ring out with sounds like “corruption” and “commissions.”

T-84_Oplot_main_battle_tank

In coup livery?

Add that to the fact that Prayuth has “had requested a speedier delivery of the battle tanks.” Recall that the delivery of the APCs was repeatedly delayed while the Army ordered more even when not a single APC had been delivered and there were problems with the engines. Another tell-tale sign  of “issues” is Prayuth’s need to affirm that “he had inspected an Oplot tank during a recent trip to Ukraine and believed the army was getting good value for money in terms of firepower and combat capabilities.” As the Post reports, the “procurement drew criticism from soldiers when the deal was announced in 2011.”

Some in the timid Yingluck Shinawatra government must be thinking that they may see the tanks clattering on Bangkok’s streets against an elected government some time in the future or whether they may be used to threaten Cambodia in a PAD-inspired, xenophobic border clash.








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