Thai deal to buy Chinese frigate expected by year-end: Minister

Negotiations are ongoing but will take a while, an official said

The Nation

The Nation



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November 8, 2023

BANGKOK – He spoke while overseeing the second day of the biannual Defence & Security 2023 exhibition, which is being held at IMPACT Muang Thong Thani in Nonthaburi until Thursday.

Asked about today’s talks between the Royal Thai Navy (RTN) and China Shipbuilding & Offshore International Co, Sutin said the Chinese side was unable to green-light the swap as the new deal needed Beijing’s approval.

He said the negotiations should prove successful but would last a bit longer as there were many issues to be resolved.

The Thai Navy has offered the Chinese builder two alternatives after the submarine deal collapsed, either a frigate or an offshore patrol vessel. However, Sutin added that a third option may also be on the table.

He said he expects the Thai and Chinese governments to finalise the deal by the end of this year.

“I confirm that Thailand wants a frigate. However, we don’t know how the negotiations will end,” he said. He also revealed that Thailand may go ahead with procuring the Chinese sub if the swap deal fails.

Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin wants to finalise the procurement issue in line with the law and national interest, the defence minister said.

Sutin said he was moderately satisfied with Thailand’s progress in procuring defence equipment, calling this a necessary step to ensure national security.

“Even I don’t like weapons but they are necessary,” he said, adding that the arms fair had made him aware the Thai defence industry should be developed to produce homegrown military supplies.

The sub deal fell through when China was unable to supply an S26T Yuan-class submarine fitted with a German-made engine as per the 2017 contract.

EU sanctions prevent Germany from supplying equipment that could be used in Chinese military hardware.

As such, Beijing proposed a Chinese-made engine for the submarine, an offer later rejected by the RTN.

Instead, the Navy has opted to buy a frigate from China. However, the frigate is priced at 17 billion baht – 1 billion baht more than the submarine’s price tag.

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