Quotes: MENA   Enter Symbol: NewsLetter: Search: advanced

Is the Thai military pivoting away from the West to China?  Join our daily free Newsletter

MENAFN - Asia Times - 07/01/2017
No. of Ratings : 0
Add to Mixx!

(MENAFN - Asia Times) Thailand is eyeing Chinese weapons to modernize its military hardware, signalling a shift in the traditional Thai arms acquisition policy. Until recently, Bangkok has largely opted for defense items from the United States and its Western allies and partners.

The question is now whether this apparent change of tack by the Thai ruling military junta is dictated by diversification's needs in arm purchases or by the geopolitical imperative of balancing the country's relations with Washington and Beijing amid a mounting power play between them in East Asia. Some go further and speculate that behind Thailand's growing interest in Chinese arms there is a strategic choice by Thai generals, who aim to pivot away from the US – an old ally of Bangkok's – to Beijing.

Embracing China

General Chalermchai Sittisat, the Thai army commander in chief, upheld on January 2 that his country was likely to procure more Chinese weaponry. He then pointed out that Thailand had not switched preferences in defense and security procurements from the West to China.

The DailyBrief Must-reads from across Asia - directly to your inbox

In Chalermchai's words, Thai armed forces look to Chinese arms and weapon systems because they are cheaper than the Western ones, an important factor at a time when Thailand is coping with budget constraints. Still, Bangkok is keen to develop a defence and weapons industry at home with the Chinese help.

Chalermchai underscored another important element. Since the May 2014 military coup masterminded by the current Thai prime minister, General Prayuth Chan-ocha, the US has frozen military ties with the Thai government; Washington consequently imposed legal restrictions on arm sales to the southeast Asian country.

This American attitude has prompted Bangkok to turn to China for defense procurements. Last month, Thai and Chinese defense ministers talked about the possibility of jointly setting up military production facilities in Thailand, not least to manufacture small arms and drones. The Thai army inked a deal to buy 28 VT-4 tanks from Beijing last May, with the option to secure many more of them in the future. Furthermore, the Thai navy is expecting the cabinet's green light to the purchase of three Chinese-built S26T submarines.

Diversification policy

Bangkok's recent arms deal with some European defense manufacturers and Russia would prop up the idea that the Thai government is actually carrying out a diversification policy in military acquisitions.

As part of its fleet build-up program launched in 2012, the Royal Thai Air Force (RTAF) ordered two additional Caracal multi-role helicopters from France-based aircraft maker Airbus in November; they should be delivered by 2019 and added to the existing fleet, which can be employed for combat search and rescue operations and troop transport missions – in the region, Indonesia and Malaysia are also equipped with the same model of helicopters.

The Thai government is als in talks with Sweden's Saab Aeronautics for a further order of Gripen C/D fighters. The new aircrafts would join the fleet of 12 Gripen C/Ds that the RTAF has currently in service.

Similarly to China, Russia would be ready to assist Thailand in establishing national military production structures, according to media reports. In September 2016, then, Bangkok signed a contract with Moscow to get spare parts for Russian-built helicopters operated by the RTAF. In addition, last May, Thai generals had showed interest in buying a dozen of Russian-made Mil Mi-17 helicopters for troops transport operations.

Thailand's focus on procurement of helicopters and production of small arms and drones may suggest the military junta wants to put armed containment of the Muslim Malay insurgency in the country's deep south before any other defense and security need.

Speaking to Asia Times, Thitinan Pongsudhirak, a political science professor at Bangkok's Chulalongkorn University, put the issue in a somewhat different way: 'The acquisition of more helicopters for combat duties and the creation of small arms and drones production facilities on Thai soil are not necessarily tied to the government's handling of the southern insurgency'. Nonetheless, in his view, 'there seems to be a greater realization that a more carrot-and-stick approach is necessary and the government appears willing to try more developmental and socio-economic approach without abandoning the use of force'.

Tactical need vs. strategic shift

Shunned by the US and, in part, by Europe, the Thai military junta is probably trying to win a stamp of political legitimacy from China. Bangkok is not a contender in the South China Sea territorial disputes, in which Beijing is the key claimant, and this facilitates the current embrace between the two Asian countries.

However, if Thailand really diversifies weapon suppliers for its core defense needs down the line and the US-Thai relationship is placed back on track, Bangkok's cozying up to Beijing for arm procurements will boil down to a tactical necessity rather than a planned strategic shift

An indication in this regard will come from the Thai military's pick for its new air defense radar system, with Japan reportedly proposing its Mitsubishi Electric's fixed-position FSP-3 radar, and Washington's posturing toward the 'quasi-civilian' government that should take the country's helm after the general elections set for later this year.

Share Tweet Linkedin Email Thailand Military China United States defense Chalermchai Sittisat Emanuele Scimia Emanuele Scimia is a journalist and foreign policy analyst. He is a contributing writer to the South China Morning Post and the Jamestown Foundation's Eurasia Daily Monitor. In the past, his articles have also appeared in The National Interest, Deutsche Welle, World Politics Review, The Jerusalem Post and the EUobserver, among others. He has written for Asia Times since 2011.


Asia Times

  MENA News Headlines
 Mar 23 2017 - Jordan- King, Moroccan Monarch open African Art Exhibition in RabatJordan News Agency
(MENAFN - Jordan News Agency) Rabat, March 23 (Petra) -- Their Majesties King Abdullah II and King Mohammed VI on Thursday opened an African Art Exhibition in Rabat. The two monarchs toured the ...

 Mar 23 2017 - Jordan- King, Moroccan Monarch hold talksJordan News Agency
(MENAFN - Jordan News Agency) Rabat, March 23 (Petra) -- His Majesty King Abdullah II held talks here on Thursday with Moroccan Monarch Mohammed VI on bilateral ties and latest developments in the ...

 Mar 23 2017 - Jordan- King meets Moroccan PM, parliament speaker, President of House of CouncillorsJordan News Agency
(MENAFN - Jordan News Agency) Raba, March 23 (Petra) -- His Majesty King Abdullah II on Thursday received at his residence here Moroccan Prime Minister Abdelilah Benkirane, President of the Moroccan ...

 Mar 23 2017 - Jordan- King calls British PM, condemns terrorist attackJordan News Agency
(MENAFN - Jordan News Agency) Rabat, March 23 (Petra) -- His Majesty King Abdullah II on Thursday made a telephone call with British Prime Minister Theresa May, in which he condemned the heinous ...

 Mar 23 2017 - Jordan- Daily News BulletinJordan News Agency
(MENAFN - Jordan News Agency) Jordan News Agency (Petra) starts its daily news bulletin from Amman for Wednesday, March 22, 2017, corresponding to Jumada al-Akhirah 23, 1438 Hijri. 22/3/2017 - ...

 Mar 23 2017 - Jordan- Arab summit enjoys political and economic importance, says ministerJordan News Agency
(MENAFN - Jordan News Agency) The Dead Sea, March 23 (Petra) -- The upcoming Arab Summit has its political importance as well as its economic, social and developmental impact, which will reflect ...

 Mar 23 2017 - Jordan- Arab Economic and Social Council discusses economic filesJordan News Agency
(MENAFN - Jordan News Agency) Dead Sea, March 23 (Petra)--Assistant Arab League Secretary General for Social Affairs Badr El Din Alali said that meeting of the senior officials of the Economic and ...

 Mar 23 2017 - Foreign Ministry contacts UAE authorities on killing of Jordanian womanJordan News Agency
(MENAFN - Jordan News Agency) Amman, March 23 (Petra)--Official Spokesperson of the Ministry of Foreign and Expatriate Affairs Sabah Rafei said that the Jordanian Embassy in Abu Dhabi and the ...

 Mar 23 2017 - Saudi executes two drug dealersThe Peninsula
(MENAFN - The Peninsula) Riyadh: Saudi Arabia executed two convicted drug traffickers on Thursday, bringing the number of prisoners killed in the kingdom to 20 so far this year. The state-run ...

 Mar 23 2017 - Qatar's Al Behaih wins gold at Special Olympics Winter GamesThe Peninsula
(MENAFN - The Peninsula) Vienna: Qatar's Hamad Jaber Al Behaih won the gold medal in the speed skating 222m event at the Special Olympics World Winter Games in Vienna, Austria. He finished the ...





Middle East North Africa - Financial Network

MENAFN News Market Data Countries Tools Section  

Middle East North Africa - Financial Network

Main News
News By Industry
News By Country

Search News
Market Indices
Quotes & Charts

Global Indices
Arab Indices


Oil & Energy

Currencies Cross Rates
Currencies Updates
Currency Converter

USA Stocks
Arab Stocks

Saudi Arabia 

Economic Calendar
Financial Glossary

Financial Calculators

RSS Feeds [XML]

Corporate Monitor


Real Estate
Submit Your Property

Arab Research
Buy a Research

Press Releases
Submit your PR

Join Newsletters

© 2014 menafn.com All Rights Reserved.  Terms of Service | Privacy Policy | Contact Us | Advertise | About MENAFN | Career Opportunities | Feedback | Help