Thailand Army Wants More APCs From Ukraine

BANGKOK, Thailand -- The Thailand army is seeking approval to buy an additional 121 armoured personnel carriers from the Ukraine even though it has yet to receive any of the vehicles it ordered three years ago.

Ukrainian APC

A military source said army chief Anupong Paojinda has decided to spend his forces' leftover funds for this year on 121 APCs from the Ukraine, which has yet to deliver the 96 vehicles ordered in 2007.

The army will seek cabinet approval for a 4.6 billion baht ($143 million) budget to purchase the APCs next week, said the source.

Defence permanent secretary Apichart Penkitti yesterday confirmed the army had already received the ministry's approval for the APCs and that the army had enough of its budget remaining to make the purchase.

Gen Apichart dismissed criticisms that the purchase would cause budgeting problems.

"We're not rushing the deal through. We're working within the budget," he said.

Gen Apichart said the army had supplied the Auditor-General Office with a detailed explanation of the background of the company providing the armoured vehicles.

Three years ago, the army ordered 96 model BTR-3E1 APCs, worth about 4 billion baht ($124 million), from the Ukrainian manufacturer.

However, it has not yet delivered those 96 vehicles to the army due to problems with the vehicles' engines.That purchase was also criticised.

The deal to purchase the APCs was done while Gen Sonthi Boonyaratkalin, head of the coup government's Council for National Security, was the Army chief.

The manufacturer had initially planned to use German engines in the assembly of the vehicles, however the maker of the engines refused to sell them to the Ukrainian company.

The Ukrainian APC manufacturer was forced to switch to US-made engines and therefore still has to complete the assembly of the 96 APCs ordered by the Thai army, said the source.

The source said Gen Anupong wanted to push through the purchase of the additional 121 APCs before he retires in September.

The Office of the Auditor-General had asked the Defence Ministry to reconsider the initial deal.

The Ukranian company that won the bid had allegedly not submitted its documents on time, the office argued, saying also that the APCs were not suitable for combat.

Source: Bangkok Post