6 June 2024

Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin said today that he was disappointed with opposition MPs’ criticisms of the Defence Ministry, particularly regarding bribery, which he described as a rerun of an old script which lacks supportive evidence.

He was responding to Move Forward MP Wiroj Lakkhanaadisorn’s allegation during the debate, in parliament today, that someone had demanded commission from the Royal Thai Navy (RTN) in exchange for approving the 17 billion baht deal to procure a frigate from China, replacing the submarine deal.

The prime minister said allegations of graft had been raised on several occasions during the general debate, adding that he challenges the opposition to produce evidence to substantiate the allegations, because he wants to eliminate corruption as well.

He also said that he agrees with the idea that the frigate should be built in Thailand, so Thai people can learn how to build these ships and benefit from the transfer of knowledge and technology.

Nevertheless, he said that the issue of foreign relations must also be taken into consideration, as the frigate deal is between Thailand and China.

On the second day of the general debate, Wiroj said that military policy under Defence Minister Sutin Klungsang is a copy of the one initiated by his predecessor, General Prayut Chan-o-cha, with nothing new which could be considered as reform.

He claimed that the Move Forward party is supportive of the RTN’s frigate deal, noting that the navy currently has four aging frigates in service with one to be decommissioned soon, leaving not enough in service to protect Thai maritime territory. Malaysia and Cambodia each has a larger naval fleet.

Wiroj said that the threat to cut the budget for the frigate project will deprive the RTN of the opportunity to benefit from the transfer of knowledge and technology and to build the ship domestically.