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Activist group slams plan to buy Bt91.2-bn ‘spy satellites’


A CHARTER protection group has opposed the government’s plan to buy satellites worth a combined US$2.85 billion (Bt91.2 billion) from the US for national defence and other uses.

Srisuwan Janya, secretary-general of the Association of Thai Constitution Protection Organisations, said the National Defence Council had approved a strategic plan for 2018-27 proposed by the Defence Technology Institute, under which THEIA satellites worth Bt91.2 billion would be acquired from THEIA Group.
The proposed multi-billion-dollar purchase, lobbied by a former Thai politician, is said to be part of the Thailand Satellites Data Information Processing Centre, which will be implemented in partnership with the US. Srisuwan said these satellites were regarded as “spy satellites” due to their ability to record as many as 86,400 high-resolution images every 24 hours of all objects on earth. He said this raised privacy issues and affected the rights of 66 million Thai citizens.
The use of these satellites would violate several articles of the charter, especially regarding people’s right to privacy, he said, adding that the multi-billion-dollar project had not been approved by the National Legislative Assembly. However, the Defence Technology Institute had already signed a letter of acknowledgement, letter of intent and letter of confirmation with US authorities, he revealed.
The letter of confirmation was signed in late-April this year, he said, adding that Deputy PM ACM Prajin Juntong and Defence Minister General Pravit Wongsuwan had been informed about the signing.
Srisuwan said the multi-billion-dollar satellite project would further increase public debt, which was already in excess of Bt5.1 trillion, and the government should not spend a large defence budget for these satellites when poor people were still saddled with high household debt. In addition, he said, the Prayut government had previously committed to buying submarines worth a combined Bt36 billion from China.
Earlier, the Defence Ministry said it had been upgrading the Armed Forces’ capabilities from a satellite user status to that of an operator so as to boost the country’s aerospace national defence capabilities.
The THEIA project has been planned in conjunction with the US and other countries in the region.
The THEIA satellites are due to be operational in Thailand in the next three years when the Defence Ministry’s current Thaicom satellite contract expires.
In addition to national defence, the satellites are also designed for petroleum exploration and other purposes.
 

Published : June 03, 2018

By : The Nation