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Army’s helicopters ‘much larger, included pilot training’

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“His information is inaccurate and he could be viewed as making unfair allegations against the Army.”

An anti-graft activist came under attack from the military after he alleged that the Army had bought helicopters at inflated prices.

Srisuwan Janya, secretary-general of the Association for the Protection of the Thai Constitution, earlier filed a petition with the Office of the Auditor-General asking for an investigation into the Army’s procurement of the Italian-made helicopters at prices he alleged to be inflated.

The Royal Thai Army has dismissed the claims of irregularities in its purchase of helicopters, which Srisuwan said are similar to the one involved in a recent fatal accident that killed Leicester City football club owner Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha.

Colonel Sirichan Ngathong, deputy spokesperson for the Army, said the amount paid for the purchases included the cost of pilot training, spare parts, maintenance and additional equipment.

Also, the size of the models purchased by the Army was a lot larger than the civilian version involved in the accident in England, she said, which is why the helicopters bought by the Army were more expensive.

Srisuwan made the allegation after reports that the crashed Agusta Westland AW169 helicopter cost about 280 million baht. He pointed out that two AW139 helicopters were purchased for 675 million baht each in 2012, when Prime Minister General Prayut Chan-o-cha was serving as commander-in-chief of the Army.

Sirichan said that the Army had purchased a number of Agusta Westland AW139 and AW149 model helicopters in line with mission needs and procurement regulations.

She explained that these models are completely different from the AW169 involved in the UK crash, in terms of size, engine, flight ceiling, load capacity, speed, safety features, the number of pilot and passenger seats and additional equipment.

However, she said, the Army was prepared for scrutiny and will provide information to any state agency that investigates the matter.

“The Army’s aircraft purchases were straightforward and in line with relevant laws and regulations,” she said.

“His information is inaccurate and he could be viewed as making unfair allegations against the Army. Also, it may not be inappropriate to try to link a tragic accident with the Army’s purchase of helicopters,” the spokesperson said.

Meanwhile, Defence Ministry spokesman Lt-General Kongcheep Tantrawanit on Friday suggested that Srisuwan seemed to have “poorly screened” the relevant information before making his allegations against the Army.

“Without a good understanding, you should have come to ask the Army first before giving any information to the media or filing any complaint. Without enough screening and lacking accurate information, you made the public believe what you said,” he said.

Deputy Prime Minister Prawit Wongsuwan, who is also Defence Minister, on Friday suggested that Srisuwan made his allegation prematurely.

“He filed his complaint when nothing wrong happened. The Army made these purchases under government-to-government deals, at specified prices. The deals were transparent,” General Prawit, who is also in charge of security affairs, said.

Earlier, Army spokesman Colonel Winthai Suvaree said the prices that the Army paid for the helicopters also included the cost of simulation training for the pilots, spare parts and training for its mechanics.

He said the reported 280 million baht price tag of Vichai’s helicopter was apparently for the helicopter only, while pilots were hired and maintenance services were possibly paid for separately. Also, the price tag cited by Srisuwan was not an official price, but rather one reported by the media.

Army’s helicopters ‘much larger, included pilot training' | News by The Thaiger

STORY: The Nation Weekend

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Bangkok

Thai officials approve transfer of 3 Iranians involved in 2012 botched bomb plot in Bangkok

Caitlin Ashworth

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Thai officials approve transfer of 3 Iranians involved in 2012 botched bomb plot in Bangkok | The Thaiger
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Thai authorities are transferring 3 Iranian inmates to Tehran. The inmates were involved in the 2012 failed bomb plot, which Israeli and Thai officials say, was targeted at Israeli diplomats in Bangkok.

According to Iranian state TV, the transfer was a swap. The report says 33 year old British-Australian Kylie Moore-Gilbert, who was incarcerated for the past 2 years on espionage charges, was released from Iran prison in exchange for the 3 Iranians imprisoned overseas.

Although Iranian media reports the transfer was a prisoner swap, Thai officials have not confirmed the reports. Thailand’s deputy general Chatchom Akapin says the transfers are normal and Thailand approved the transfer in an agreement with Iran.

“These types of transfers aren’t unusual… We transfer prisoners to other countries and at the same time receive Thais back under this type of agreement all the time.”

Back in 2012, a cache of homemade explosives accidentally blew up at a Bangkok villa on Sukhumvit 71 rented by the Iranians. Saeid Moradi fled the home carrying explosives, but dropped them as police chased him. He lost both his legs in the explosion.

While both Thai and Israeli officials say the explosives were intended to attack Israeli diplomats in Bangkok, Iran officials deny the allegations. The men never faced terrorism charges or any charges relating to attempting to kill the Israeli diplomats.

Moradi along with his accomplice, Mohammad Kharzei, were convicted in 2013. Thai Court sentenced Moradi to life in prison for attempting to murder a police officer and sentenced Kharzei to 15 years in prison for possessing explosives. Another suspect, Masoud Sedaghatzadeh, was arrested in Malaysia in 2012 and then extradited to Thailand in 2017.

SOURCE: Associated Press

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Bangkok

Whale skeleton around 3,000-5,000 years old found in Samut Sakhon

Caitlin Ashworth

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Whale skeleton around 3,000-5,000 years old found in Samut Sakhon | The Thaiger
PHOTO: MGR Online

A whale skeleton estimated to be around 3,000 to 5,000 years old was found in Samut Sakhon, just west of Bangkok, about 12 kilometres inland from the coastline. The bones will be carbon dated to determine a more precise age.

The Natural Resources and Environment minister Varawut Silpa-archa says the bones resemble the Bryde’s whale. About 50 Bryde’s whales live in the upper Gulf of Thailand near the Samut Sakhon coast.

“The seas around Thailand have been abundant with life for thousands of years, as shown by fossils.”

The partially fossilised skeleton is around 12 metres long with 3 metre long skull. Archaeologists excavated 19 vertebrae with 5 ribs each along with a shoulder blade and left fins. They estimate another 20% of the skeleton needs to be excavated.

SOURCE: Nation Thailand

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Thailand

10 passengers injured after Bangkok-Chiang Khong bus crashes into tree

Caitlin Ashworth

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10 passengers injured after Bangkok-Chiang Khong bus crashes into tree | The Thaiger
PHOTO: naewna

10 people were injured and sent to the hospital after a bus driver lost control of the vehicle and crashed into a tree early this morning. The double-decker passenger bus on the Bangkok-Chiang Khong route was passing through the Phitsanulok province in Central Thailand when the driver lost control and crashed into a tree on the side of the road.

Bang Rakam police and volunteer rescuers responded to the scene at 2:50am. The injured passengers were taken to Narseuan University Hospital and Pitsanuvej Hospital.

SOURCE: Nation Thailand

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