By Wasamon Audjarint
Pisit said this during an update on progress of the investigation into the deal proposed by the Royal Thai Navy.
The Navy, he said, had studied and compared specifications and the quality of submarines from various countries before deciding to buy the vessel from China.
The Navy proposed buying three Yuan-class S26T submarines from China before the Cabinet approved the purchase of one sub for Bt13.5 billion.
The deal was inked last Friday amid speculation over its worth and necessity. The Auditor-General’s Office has stated that it would determine if the value of the submarine justified the state budget expenditure.
Pisit said initially the budget of Bt36 billion for all three submarines was acceptable as payments would be spread over a long period of time, so as to not exceed the Navy’s normal budget. Instalments will cost between Bt700 million and Bt2 billion.
He said the government-to-government deal was positive for Thailand as it helped guarantee that the Chinese government would be responsible if any flaws were found in the submarines.
Pisit added that such a deal should not violate the new charter’s prohibition on international agreements deemed to affect sovereignty.
The Auditor-General’s Office, he said, would continue investigating the deal and the budget allocation.
‘Navy carefully studied options’
Deputy Prime Minister General Prawit Wongsuwan also rejected the notion that the deal violated the charter on the grounds that the Navy had carefully looked into it and it had won backing from the Cabinet.
“Thinking that the deal violates the constitution is purely imaginary,” Prawit said. “The Navy and the Cabinet already looked through all related processes. People talk about this submarine so much although there are other things that are more expensive. I think people don’t really understand the need to strengthen the military.”
Meanwhile, the Army’s proposal to purchase 34 VN-1 tanks, worth around Bt2 billion, from China was not tabled at the Cabinet meeting yesterday.
If approved, the fighting vehicles would be the next military acquisition following the purchase of 10 Bt2-billion VT-4 tanks and the Bt13.5-billion Yuan Class S26T submarine approved last month. All purchases were made via government-to-government deals with China.
Army chief General Chalermchai Sittisart said on Monday the VN-1 tanks would be approved this fiscal year, with the Defence Ministry sending the procurement proposal for Cabinet to approve.
At a press briefing yesterday, reporters persisted in asking questions about the purchases although military acquisitions are usually considered secret. Last month, the junta government cited confidentiality after it took a full week to reveal the controversial submarine approval.
However, the prime minister said at the briefing that Cabinet had not heard about the VN-1 procurement proposal. Prawit also said that he had not heard of the deal.
Defence Ministry spokesperson Maj-General Kongcheep Tantravanich said the proposal was still with the Army.