US soldiers of the 8th Squadron, 1st Cavalry Regiment fire mortars from their Stryker during crew certification in May 2008 at Fort Lewis, Washington. Photo: Jason Kaye
US soldiers of the 8th Squadron, 1st Cavalry Regiment fire mortars from their Stryker during crew certification in May 2008 at Fort Lewis, Washington. Photo: Jason Kaye

BANGKOK — Thailand is set to be the first foreign buyer of US-built Stryker tanks after a purchase was approved by the US.

The US has approved the sale of 60 M-1126 Stryker infantry carrier vehicles to Thailand, which will be delivered starting September for a total of USD$175 million, or 5.38 billion baht. The US’ longtime Southeast Asian ally will be the first non-US country to own them.

“The Stryker vehicles will increase Thailand’s capability to defend its sovereign territory against traditional and non-traditional threats by filling the capability void between light infantry soldiers and heavy mechanized units. Thailand will have no difficulty absorbing this equipment into its armed forces,” reads the statement released by the Defense Security Cooperation Agency.

The agency, under the US Department of Defense, says Congress was notified of the sale Friday.

“The proposed sale of this equipment and support will not alter the basic military balance in the region,” the statement also says. “There will be no adverse impact on US defense readiness as a result of this proposed sale.”

Of the 60 Strykers, 37 are refurbished vehicles previously used by the US Army. The cost of each Stryker averaged 89,775,000 baht per each. The sale also includes extra equipment including machine guns and grenade launchers.

The army initially announced in May that it would purchase 37 Strykers for the 11th Infantry Division in Chachoengsao for 80 million baht each, totalling 2.96 billion baht. Army chief Gen. Apirat Kongsompong met with Maj. Gen. John P. Johnson, the Deputy Commanding General of the US Army Pacific (USARPAC), for a meeting from 13 to 17 May in Pattaya.

Transparency activist Srisuwan Janya called out the army on May 15, criticising the high price of the Strykers as exorbitant, especially given several have already been in use by the US army for 20 years.

Thailand previously purchased Black Hawk helicopters from the US in 2009, as well as Lakota helicopters in 2013 and 2014.

Since the May 2014 coup, the Thai military has been expanding its firepower by purchasing submarines, battle tanks, vehicles and jets, including a three-submarine fleet from China. But over the years, the military has also been duped into acquisitions that turned out to be completely fraudulent. These include bogus bomb and narcotic detectors that cost the state millions of baht in damages, and a 350 million baht “security blimp” that proved unable to fly reliably.

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