Thailand’s interior minister yesterday defended his plan to purchase 6 firefighting helicopters, saying the ministry doesn’t have any such helicopters and relies on military choppers to fight wildfires, “which aren’t up to the task”. Anupong Paojinda was responding to an objection raised by the opposition during yesterday’s House debate on the budget bill for the financial year 2021.
“I’m sure those MPs in northern provinces know that the best the military helicopters borrowed for fighting wildfires ever did was carry water to pour on the fires, without sufficient accuracy in target identification.”
Wildfires are common in Thailand’s North, especially during the annual “burning season,” usually February through April, when farmers burn their crop fields in preparation for the next growing season. The minister said up to 6 wildfire-fighting helicopters are needed because they would be used in rotation to allow regular maintenance.
The Pheu Thai Party MP for Chiang Rai said the ministry’s plan to purchase 2 helicopters for fighting wildfires this year, at a cost of 1.8 billion baht, isn’t worth it, as the country already has more than 300 helicopters. The Department of Disaster Prevention and Mitigation plans to buy the 6 helicopters by 2022, an outlay he said is unnecessary and should be scrapped. He says the order was made to help a private company win a lucrative contract at a time when Anupong was serving as the army chief.
Anupong responded that the DDPM is responsible for picking the helicopter supplier via a transparent and accountable bidding process, and that as long as the company that wins the bidding strictly follows the law, there is no problem. He vowed to take legal action against anyone found acting illegally.
SOURCE: Bangkok Post
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