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Opposition questions ministry’s plan to buy firefighting helicopters

Jack Burton

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PHOTO: cm108.com
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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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Jack Burton is an American writer, broadcaster, linguist and journalist who has lived in Asia since 1987. A native of the state of Georgia, he attended the The University of Georgia's Henry Grady School of Journalism, which hands out journalism's prestigious Peabody Awards. His works have appeared in The China Post, The South China Morning Post, The International Herald Tribune and many magazines throughout Asia and the world. He is fluent in Mandarin and has appeared on television and radio for decades in Taiwan, Mainland China, Hong Kong and Macau.

1 Comment

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    Toby Andrews

    July 4, 2020 at 11:06 pm

    Big purchases by Thailand government officers, usually give them opportunities to take bribes.
    Any western police investigation would spot it straight away.
    This opposition politician can see it. but it will make no difference. At this critical time of poverty, they will still buy the helicopters whether they need them or not,

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