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Thailand to Receive US-Made Armored Vehicles Next Month, Officials Say

Nontarat Phaicharoen
Bangkok
2019-08-28
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U.S., Thai and South Korean flags are flown during the multi-nation Cobra Gold military exercises in the eastern Thai province of Chonburi, Feb. 16, 2019.
U.S., Thai and South Korean flags are flown during the multi-nation Cobra Gold military exercises in the eastern Thai province of Chonburi, Feb. 16, 2019.
AFP

Thailand will take delivery of 10 armored vehicles from the United States next month, the first batch of 120 American-made infantry carriers expected to be transferred by 2020, officials said Wednesday.

U.S. military aid to Thailand, one of Washington’s major allies, was slowed as a consequence of the Foreign Assistance Act, a law that bars American security forces from cooperating with nations where an elected government has been toppled through a coup.

“They are coming and will arrive soon,” outgoing U.S. Chargé d’Affaires Peter Haymond told reporters in Bangkok, referring to the 10 armored vehicles.

“[We are at] full diplomatic ties, with good partner history. We will continue to cooperate with Thailand as we did in the past,” he said.

Thai Army Chief Gen. Apirat Kongsompong also confirmed that the eight-wheeled vehicles would be delivered during a ceremony at army headquarters in Bangkok on Sept. 12.

“The army is preparing a ceremony to take delivery of the Strykers with four vehicles present. The first batch would be 10 [vehicles],” Apirat told reporters.

He said Gen. Robert Brooks Brown, chief of U.S. Army Pacific, would co-preside at the ceremony.

Kongsompong told reporters that Thailand would receive 70 U.S.-made armored vehicles by the end of this year and 50 more next year, but he did not give the value of the deal, according to Reuters.

In July, the U.S. State Department approved a sale of 60 Stryker Infantry Carrier Vehicles to Thailand for an estimated cost of $175 million (5.4 billion Thai Baht), a Pentagon statement said.

Since the 2014 bloodless putsch that toppled the government of Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra, China has attempted to fill Thailand’s military requirements, as it sensed an opportunity to expand its influence in the kingdom, according to security analysts.

In January, the Thai army announced it was seeking cabinet approval to buy 14 Chinese-made battle tanks in a 2.3 billion baht (U.S. $75 million) deal with the China Ordnance Industries Group Corporation, also known as Norinco, one of the world’s largest defense contractors.

The Foreign Assistance Act, a law first enacted in 1961, requires the United States to suspend foreign aid to any country run by a military junta. The ban can be lifted if the State Department certifies there has been a restoration of civilian democratic rule.

As a result of that ban, then-U.S. President Barack Obama cut about U.S. $4.8 million in financing for Bangkok’s acquisition of U.S. defense equipment, services and training, as Washington also cancelled or downsized joint military exercises.

Nevertheless, Thailand purchased four Black Hawk helicopters from the United States in 2017, according to the nation’s then-army chief, Gen. Chalermchai Sitthisart.

Former Army Gen. Prayuth Chan-o-cha, who led a bloodless putsch that overthrew Shinawatra, was formally elected in June as the country’s prime minister by members of the two chambers of Parliament, consolidating his grip on power after the March national elections that his opponents say was engineered to keep him in power.

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