DefMin Withdraws 6.1 Billion Baht Ship Proposal After Criticism

Thai and Chinese navy personnel march during the opening ceremony for a joint military exercise in Sattahip Naval Base, Chon Buri province, Thailand, on May 21, 2016. Image: Xinhua.

BANGKOK — The Ministry of Defense on Tuesday withdrew its proposal to buy a 6.1 billion baht landing ship from China following a huge backlash on social media. 

Deputy defense minister Gen. Chaichan Changmongkol backed off from the plan just hours after he submitted the proposed purchase of the multipurpose landing platform/dock ship (LPD) to the weekly Cabinet meeting. 

Gen. Chaichan told reporters the government needs to focus its spending on the ongoing coronavirus epidemic instead. 

The navy first introduced the plan to buy the ship in September when the force announced it’s buying a landing ship from the People’s Republic at the price tag of 6.1 billion baht. 

The plan was then formally introduced to the Cabinet earlier today for an approval by the defense ministry. The move sparked widespread criticism online that the government appeared to be prioritizing arm deals over spending on anti-virus medical equipment in hospitals, which remains underfunded. 

Move Forward Party MP Wiroj Lakkhanaadisorn on Tuesday called on the government to focus on funding hospitals with ventilators instead of buying military hardwares during the COVID-19 outbreak. 

“We’re in a situation where we need medical equipment and healthcare funding to handle the COVID-19 outbreak. The government must understand this and use the budget to offer relief to citizens,” Wiroj said. 

In his own tweet, Wiroj said that the 6.1 billion baht used to buy the ship could be used to fund any one of the following: 406,667 people with the 5,000 baht-per-month cash relief handout for three months, buy 7,176 IPPV ventilators, buy 5,083 PPE suits, 2.44 million masks, or 174,286 N95 masks. 

The hashtag #IToldYoutoStopBuyingWeapons is one of the top-trending by Tuesday afternoon. 

“The doctors lack prevention and treatment equipment. But bad government instead, take the people’s tax statements to buy warships,” tweeted @Toppurdy. 

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