Fake bomb detectors come back to haunt the Thai PM in parliament

What’s made of plastic, has a few pieces of wire and two plastic antenna probes? A bomb detector, of course.

The Thai army was duped into purchasing the dodgy bomb detectors 13 years ago. Some 320 of them! With the ongoing insurgency in southern Thailand, the bomb detectors were a potential solution for ferreting out small ordinances in the three southern provinces of Pattanai, Yala, and Narathiwat, before they exploded. Or that’s how it was sold to the Army.

Yesterday, the Thai PM announced that the Ministry of Defence had already taken legal action against the local suppliers of the completely useless ‘bomb detectors’, marketed as the GT-200, seeking compensation of 747 million baht.

A Move Forward MP Jirat Thongsuwan asked parliament who, or which, organisation should be held accountable for the procurement scandal involving the GT-200s. They were purchased from a British company over two years, from 2006, with contracts valued at several hundred million baht.

According to Thai PBS World, in January 2010, the British government banned the export of the ADE651 bomb detecting device to Iraq and Afghanistan, after discovering that the device is a fake (and not even a good fake), and warned foreign governments that the ADE651 and GT-200 are “infective in detecting bombs or explosives.”

The GT200 was produced by UK-based Global Technical Ltd, which claimed the device could detect, from a distance, various substances including explosives and drugs. It was distributed to a number of different countries in 2001 under the name GT200, ALPHA46, ADE+651, and AL-6D. The first organization that imported and used the GT200 device was the Royal Thai Airforce.

The owner of Global Technical, the British producer of the devices, was later convicted and sentenced to seven years in a UK prison.

To make matter worse, the Royal Thai Army spent 7.5 million investigating 320 of the procured units. The Move Forward party claimed, after the investigation, that the GT200s, all 320 of them, were “only good enough to be used as a “cat poop scoop”.

The device was first used at Bor Thong Airport in Yala. Officials were “impressed by the results” so more devices were imported into other departments. But the device’s efficiency was questioned after it failed to detect car bombs in Narathiwat.

The device was tested and it was discovered that it could only detect four bombs from 20. This result led to a further investigation and prosecution of the distributing companies and relevant Thai officials. From 2001 to 2010, Thailand imported 1,398 GT200 and ALPHA46 devices, costing 1.2 billion baht.

The Thaiger believes that the GT200’s ability to detect four bombs out of 20, as reported by the Royal Thai Army, is completely impossible given that the design and function of the plastic box and a few wires would be unable to detect a nuclear explosion at point-blank range.

But MP Jirat Thongsuwan already knew that.

“We all know that the device was just an empty plastic box with two plastic antennae that couldn’t detect any bombs. When anyone asked about the contract signing with NSTDA, the Royal Thai Army would say it is a secret.”

Fake bomb detectors come back to haunt the Thai PM in parliament | News by Thaiger

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Tim Newton

Tim joined The Thaiger as one of its first employees in 2018 as an English news writer/editor and then began to present The Thaiger's Daily news show in 2020, Thailand News Today (or TNT for short). He has lived in Thailand since 2011, having relocated from Australia.