In the wake of the tragic crash of King Power supremo Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha’s personal helicopter last Saturday evening (UK time), an unintended story has emerged about the costs of the model of his helicopter, the same model used by the Royal Thai Army.
Srisuwan Janya, a ‘transparency activist’, according to Khaosod English, has dug into the accounts books and found that the military paid almost three times as much as Vichai for the same model. He notes that the helicopter model flown by Vichai’s pilot was newer so should have been more expensive.
Srisuwan calculated that the Thai military paid nearly three times as much for older models. Vichai’s helicopter was an AW169 made by Italian defense firm Leonardo.
“It cost Vichai about 280 million baht,” according to the report in Khaosod. “It raises a lot of suspicions.”
According to Srisuwan, when the Thai army bought 12 helicopters of a more outdated type from Leonardo between 2012 and 2017, it paid 675-737 million baht for each. These are the amounts as published by the Thai armed forces and quoted by Srisuwan.
Srisuwan says he is filing a formal complaint to the Thai national auditor’s office about the cost disparities.
In response to the story a Defense Ministry spokesman, Kongcheep Tantravanich, says there is a difference between civilian and military models that model helicopter, explaining the difference in price.
“They have different functions,” Maj. Gen. Kongcheep said in the Khaosod article.
A military-outfitted AW139 helicopter, the same model bought by the Thai army, reportedly sold for about 348 million baht in 2013, according to Aviation International News.
The military says it will respond in full when the complaint is lodged.