Bangkok, Thailand. Thailand’s elected representatives approved Tuesday the Ministry of Defense’s plan to purchase ten Chinese VT-4 tanks for $58 million.The latest purchase is the second of three planned. Thailand’s army previously purchased 28 VT-4 tanks, part of a larger plan to acquire a full battalion of 49 tanks, General Prawit Wongsuwon, both the defense minister and the deputy prime minister said in an official statement.
The Thai military has long complained that the older American armored vehicles were not in sync with their needs. “These tanks will replace the M41 tanks, which are small and old,” explained Major General Sansern Kaewkamnerd, a government spokesman. Thailand has been using the US made M-41 light tanks for over four decades now.
To underscore the move away from American military hardware, the Thai cabinet approved the purchase of a Chinese submarine for $380 million in January, and the military is reportedly considering buying two more. “China will charge us $522,000 for one submarine, but they agreed to give a discount to each $348,000 if we buy three,” Gen. Prawit explained, further remarking, “So it will be more worthwhile to buy three for $1 million, It’s a buy-two-get-one-free deal.”
China’s discount deals are one factor, but regional geopolitics are also in play. Thailand has moved closer to China since relations with America collapse after a 2014 coup. The Chinese were the first major power to recognize Thailand’s ruling cabinet after the coup. The U.S. responded by freezing millions of dollars in aid and cancelling security agreements. The rift created new opportunities for the Chinese to forge closer ties with Thailand.