Budget Bill debate triggers heated exchange over fake bomb detectors

FRIDAY, JUNE 03, 2022

An opposition MP’s allegation about a fake bomb and narcotic detector at the parliamentary debate on the 2023 Budget Bill earlier this week has spawned online exchanges between government critics and supporters.

Move Forward MP Jirat Thongsuwan said during the House debate on Thursday that the Defence Ministry spent as much as THB7.57 million to hire the National Science and Technology Development Agency (NSTDA) to examine 757 GT200 devices, or THB10,000 per device.

Jessada Denduangboripant, a lecturer at Chulalongkorn University’s Faculty of Science, later wrote in his Facebook post that, “GT200 is amazing. It can waste the state budget all the time. The devices have been locked up for 14 years, but they are still moved out to waste the budget. It’s really a tool to make money.”

He described the device as little more than a “divining rod”.

The GT200 is a fraudulent “remote substance detector” that was claimed by its manufacturer, UK-based Global Technical Ltd, to be able to detect, from a distance, various substances including explosives and drugs.

In 2010, the UK government warned foreign governments that the GT200 is “wholly ineffective” at detecting bombs and explosives. Three years later, Global Technical owner Gary Bolton was convicted on two charges of fraud relating to the sale and manufacture of the GT200 and sentenced to seven years in prison.

Budget Bill debate triggers heated exchange over fake bomb detectors

In Thailand, military and provincial units reportedly had procured over 800 GT200 devices since 2004. All the devices were tested and found to be completely ineffective in detecting bombs or narcotic drugs as claimed by Global Technical.

Legal action was taken against its Thai distributor Avia Satcom whose executive Sitthiwat Wattakit was found by a court in 2018 to be guilty of fraud and sentenced to nine years imprisonment and a fine of THB18,000.

Chulalongkorn’s Jessada also wrote a series of Facebook posts criticising the Defence Ministry’s proposed budget for GT200 examinations.

“It’s hollow inside the device. Nothing. The Army does not need to hire the NSTDA to examine it for 10,000 baht each. That’s a waste of the taxpayer’s money,” he said.

His posts got “likes” from many Thai netizens who also left comments critical of the government and the military.

However, claims by Jessada and opposition MP Jirat were disputed by the Street Hero V3 Facebook page, which is viewed as pro-government.

According to the Facebook page, a check on the matter revealed that findings from the NSTDA examination would be used in a legal action filed with the Administrative Court against the Thai distributor of GT200 units. The petition by the relevant authorities seeks damages for breach of contract, it said.

It also said that the cost of examination was high because it requires in-depth scientific tests and measurements on the device’s efficiency involving electrostatic charges and magnetic field.