Thailand took possession of 10 U.S.-made infantry carrier vehicles on Thursday, as a Thai navy official confirmed to BenarNews that the kingdom had agreed to purchase a warship from China earlier in the week.
The vehicles, the first of 47 refurbished Stryker vehicles purchased by Bangkok along with 23 given by Washington, symbolize efforts to address security challenges in the region, U.S. Gen. Robert Brown said at the ceremony.
“I am very proud to be here today with our tremendous partnership and tremendous ally, the Royal Thai Army, to be the first to receive this excellent vehicle to modernize and ensure that their soldiers are protected and again their citizens are protected and ready for any situations,” said Brown, the U.S. Army commander for the Indo-Pacific region.
“You need the best equipment for your soldiers and I guarantee you my first-hand experience ... I was on the ground for 75,000 miles in a Stryker in Iraq and was [targeted] by rocket-propelled grenades, IEDs, suicide vehicle bombers, everything – and here I am. I wouldn’t be here if it was not for Stryker,” he told reporters after the ceremony.
Royal Thai Army Commander Gen. Apirat Kongsompong, who received four of the vehicles during the ceremonial handover, called it an important step in the military’s efforts to modernize while maintaining strong relations with the U.S. Thailand is the oldest U.S. ally in Asia, with bilateral ties dating back 201 years.
“This Stryker will not only enhance the Royal Thai Army’s capacity but will also act as a tangible symbol of friendship,” Apirat said.
In July, the U.S. State Department approved the sale of 60 Strykers to Thailand for a cost of $175 million (5.4 billion Thai Baht), a Pentagon statement said.
Brown was asked if the deal could provoke China.
“No, I don’t believe so,” he said.
“China was at the conference we just had and they understand. Every nation wants to provide the best security and equipment for their soldiers and their nation. So I don’t believe it is provocative at all,” he said, referring to the just concluded Indo-Pacific Army Chiefs Conference in Bangkok.
China ship deal
A Royal Thai Navy official who asked to remain anonymous because he was not authorized to speak to the media, confirmed a Wednesday report from ChinaMil, the People’s Liberation Army’s official news site, about the deal signed on Monday.
“The agreement was signed, but the Navy keeps a low profile. It is for amphibious landings as well as other roles such as delivering supplies to submarines and disaster relief,” the source told BenarNews.
China Shipbuilding Industry Corp. signed a deal in Beijing with the Royal Thai Navy to export a landing platform dock warship, according to ChinaMil, which did not release specific details about its costs, specifications or delivery date.
“This is the first time for China to export abroad an amphibious transport dock, or dock landing ship, and also marks a major achievement between China and Thailand in comprehensive strategic cooperation,” ChinaMil said.