Thailand Says ‘No Thanks’ to Ukrainian Tanks, Chooses China Instead
Thailand’s Ministry of Defense has decided to terminate its contract with Ukraine for the purchase of several dozen T-84 Oplot main battle tanks, citing Kiev’s inability to deliver them on time, according to Thai media reports.
In 2011, Thailand signed a $241 million contract with the Kharkiv-based Malyshev Factory on the delivery of 49 T-84 ‘Oplot’ (‘Stronghold’) MBTs. The tanks were meant to become the backbone of Thailand’s tank forces, replacing the army’s 1957-vintage US-made M-41s, which are set to be decommissioned. However, after being plagued by never-ending problems with the delivery of the Ukrainian tanks, the Thai Defense Ministry has apparently decided to cancel the contract. Speaking to Thai media, Defense Minister Prawit Wongsuwan confirmed that the contract with Ukraine had become a key problem in efforts to modernize Thailand’s army, and that it was the result of Ukraine’s present internal situation.
In the five years since the tank deal was signed, Malyshev Factory has only provided Bangkok with about 20 T-84s, as of the end of 2016, despite the fact that the deadline was originally set for 2014. Malyshev Factory faces several serious problems, among them the lack of qualified personnel. In 2015, the plant did not produce a single T-84. At that time, Kiev asked the Thai side to postpone the delivery until October 2017.
General Chalermchai Sittisat confirmed that Thailand and China are also mulling a joint venture on the production of weapons and military equipment in Thailand.
Thai officials explained that the decision to go with China instead of the US and other Western weapons makers was made out of budgetary considerations, with Chinese equipment thought to have a superior price-quality ratio. Furthermore, Washington has had restrictions in place preventing the delivery of weapons to Bangkok since the 2014 Thai coup.