RTN defends 50 million baht drone procurement amid transparency concerns

Picture courtesy of Bangkok Post.

On Wednesday, the Royal Thai Navy (RTN) defended a nearly 50 million baht drone training procurement after critics raised concerns regarding the project’s transparency.

Admiral Pokkhrong Monthatpalin, RTN spokesperson, affirmed that the project was above board while elaborating on the Naval Ordnance Department‘s 49.8 million baht acquisition of Phoenix Jet Unmanned Aerial Targets from Air Affairs Australia.

Critics questioned why the deal, finalised in 2020, had not been already implemented, suggesting the purchase was postponed to keep the price below the 50 million baht threshold necessary for higher-level authorisation. Admiral Pokkhrong explained that the RTN had a limited budget, which led the department to modify existing units under contract terms, with replacements to be provided later, Bangkok Post reported.

He highlighted that the drone procurement was in accordance with the Defence Ministry regulations, which authorised the RTN chief, rather than the department chief, to make the decision. Admiral Pokkhrong also insisted that the department’s committee had rigorously assessed the winning firm, concluding that it was a suitable choice.

The contract, signed on March 10, 2020, underwent two revisions due to the Covid-19 pandemic. The first revision, made on November 26, 2020, accommodated online training, whereas the second, made on December 30, 2020, rescheduled delivery.

Admiral Pokkhrong further revealed that another amendment in the contract allowed for the final payment of 2.485 million baht to be completed without a “setting to work” phase. The department requested the naval attaché in Canberra to carry out a factory acceptance test because of the ongoing pandemic, and online training occurred from April 19 to April 30 this year.

Additionally, the RTN spokesman mentioned that Air Affairs Australia was acquired by Qinetic of the United Kingdom in late 2020. Consequently, the “setting to work” phase, originally included as the project’s final step, was no longer achievable.

Thailand News

Mitch Connor

Mitch is a Bangkok resident, having relocated from Southern California, via Florida in 2022. He studied journalism before dropping out of college to teach English in South America. After returning to the US, he spent 4 years working for various online publishers before moving to Thailand.

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