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Thai PM to Decide on Submarine Deal Next Week

Defence Minister Sutin Klungsang announced today that he will meet Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin next week to discuss the contentious submarine procurement project. The meeting aims to decide whether the proposal will be forwarded to the Cabinet for final approval.

Sutin stated that once China addresses a crucial question regarding the project, he will compile the necessary information for the prime minister’s consideration. “If the PM says the project can go ahead, then we’ll go ahead. But if he wants more information, then we’ll wait and see,” Sutin explained.

The urgency surrounding the project is evident, with China eager to conclude the deal, having invested significant time and resources. However, Sutin refrained from labeling this eagerness as pressure, describing it instead as China “seeking an understanding.”

The Royal Thai Navy (RTN) originally planned to purchase three S26T Yuan-class submarines from China for approximately US$1.06 billion (around 38 billion baht). Due to budget constraints, Thailand scaled back the order to one submarine for 13.5 billion baht. Further complications arose when the German-made MTU-396 diesel engine, specified in the 2017 contract, became unavailable. In response, China proposed a domestic CHD620 engine as a replacement.

Last year, the submarine purchase was postponed in favor of acquiring a Chinese frigate. However, renewed negotiations in May led the RTN to revert to the submarine deal. The Defence Ministry is now working on amending the contract, with guidance from the Council of State, the government’s legal adviser.

The contract amendments will focus on extending the contract’s term and changing the engine type. Sutin assured that all necessary information will be presented to the Cabinet for final deliberation. “In principle, the amended contract will have to win final approval from the Cabinet,” he noted, as reported by The Nation.

In related developments, the escalating civil conflict in Myanmar has prompted the RTN to keep four ships on standby in the Andaman Sea, ready to evacuate Thai citizens if necessary.

In attendance at the announcement were senior officials and key stakeholders, emphasizing the significance of the upcoming decision.

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