Arms deals with Russia in pipeline as West shuns junta
Despite Prime Minister General Prayut Chan-o-cha's insistence that the government's renewed relationship with Russia is not meant to counterbalance deteriorating relations with the United States, a top Russian minister said Moscow had high hopes for future arms deals with the junta now that Thailand's relations with the West had cooled.Russian Commerce Minister Denis Manturov, a key member of the Russian delegation that accompanied Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev to Thailand last week, said deals were also in the pipeline on rail services, military aircraft, and the sale of three Sukhoi Superjet transport planes to Thailand, with the shipment expected late next year.
Russia is reportedly planning to buy at least 80,000 tonnes of rubber from Thailand early next year, four times what it had already agreed to buy, in a government-to-government deal that would benefit Russia's automotive-tyre industry.
India and China are also increasing cooperation with Thailand in military training and logistical supports, as a result of the junta's foreign-policy shift. The intelligence services of Thailand and Russia will also collaborate to suppress international crimes and narcotics.
"All this should not be deemed as a policy shift by the junta aimed at counterbalancing the United States. Thailand's long-standing diplomatic stance has never been based on picking sides," the source said.
A Thai military expert said Thailand wanted to buy battle tanks from Russia, and Russia wanted to buy food from Thailand.
Russia is expanding its aircraft and military-hardware industries to other regions as its economy has been affected by a drop in the ruble's value due to sanctions by the European Union. This provided Russia with an appropriate opportunity to court Thailand, which is being pressured by the US and EU after the military coup last May.
Military inventory revamped
A source said the coming deployment of Russian-made weaponry should be regarded as a complete replacement of the US-made weapons in the current military inventory, as Thailand purchased a number of Russian-made weapons, including existing air-defence systems as well as a number of shoulder-fired anti-aircraft missiles.
Russia will surely be a high-profile exhibitor at an arms exhibition to be held by the Defence Ministry in Thailand in November.
The surprise renewal of Thai-Russian relations, for the first time in 25 years, has signalled an interesting sign in the junta's foreign policy, including a visit to China on last week by Deputy Prime Minister and Defence Minister Prawit Wongsuwan at the invitation of the Chinese military.
Through the Sino-Thai Defence and Security Consultation, the Chinese military has proposed a joint Thai-Chinese marine and air force military exercise, which Thailand is contemplating.