THAIS BLAST 4724-M SUBMARINE DEAL WITH CHINA
Thailand has delayed its order for two more submarines from China amid anger over the purchase while the economy is badly hit by the coronavirus pandemic, Mark Schiefelbein reported for Agence France Presse (AFP) late on August 31, 2020.
Under a 2015 deal, Thailand was one of the first countries to buy Chinese naval hardware and finalized its purchase of three submarines in 2017, with the first one expected to be delivered in 2023. An order for two more for 22.5 billion baht ($723.9 million) was approved earlier this month by a parliamentary sub-committee -- a move which drew public outcry as Thailand struggles with a freefalling economy.
Angry Thais took to social media to criticize the deal, and the hashtag "People don't want submarines" trended on Twitter. Government spokesman Anucha Burapachaisri announced Monday Prime Minister Prayut Chan-O-Cha -- also defense minister -- had "requested the navy to consider a delay" in the purchase of the two additional submarines. "The navy will negotiate with China to delay for another year," Anucha told reporters.
Prayut's military-aligned administration is under fire from near-daily protests demanding his resignation and a complete overhaul of the government -- which the demonstrators consider illegitimate. Thailand's economy is also undergoing one of its worst periods in more than 20 years, contracting 12.2 percent in the second quarter as its tourism- and exports-led sectors have been hard-hit by the pandemic.