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Thailand and China: Brothers in arms

Bangkok looks to Beijing for military supplies after US relations sour

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The Thai navy has a submarine squadron but no subs. To rectify that, the country is purchasing one from China.   © Reuters

BANGKOK Thailand will buy submarines "not for battle, but so that others will be in awe of us," Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha, the nation's former military chief and current head of its ruling junta, said at a 2016 press conference. Prayuth's regime took a decisive step toward that muscular view in January after the National Legislative Assembly, the country's rubber-stamp parliament, approved a bill to spend 13.5 billion baht ($383 million) to buy a Chinese submarine -- the first of an expected three-boat, $1 billion deal.

The Yuan-class S26T submarine will be delivered in about six years to the Thai navy's submarine squadron, which trained in Germany and South Korea but had no vessel to operate. That became glaringly obvious in July 2014, two months after the military seized power, when a $17.3 million submarine headquarters and training center was opened in Sattahip, a naval base on the Gulf of Thailand. The Thai navy decommissioned its last submarine in the early 1950s.

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