Ombudsman clears junta’s submarine deal

The Office of the Ombudsman of Thailand (OOT) has dismissed allegations of irregularities in the junta’s multi-billion baht submarine deal with China.  

Raksagecha Chaechai, Secretary-General of the OOT, announced that the OTT found no irregularities in the 13.5 billion baht submarine procurement of the Royal Thai Navy (RTN), concluding that is not unconstitutional.

He said a five-member committee tasked with investigating the matter concluded that the procurement was done in accordance with national strategic defence policy and that the RTN proposed the procurement.

The RTN’s submarine proposal was in the 2017 Budget Act and the cabinet approved the proposal on 25 October 2016 which was within 60 days of the Budget Act coming into force. The procedure was therefore it in accordance with Article 23 of the 1959 Budget Procedures Act, added Raksagecha.

The OOT Secretary-General said that the Council of State and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs also concluded that the procurement contract was a commercial one, similar to that between two private parties, which does not fall under Article 178 of the Constitution, which requires public hearings and consultation with parliament.

About two months ago, Srisuwan Janya, Secretary-General of a political group called the Association to Protect the Thai Constitution (APTC), submitted a letter to the OOT urging it to use its authority under Article 231 of the new Constitution to ask the Constitutional Court to rule whether the 13.5 billion baht submarine contract is unconstitutional or not.

Contrary to the finding of the OOT, Srisuwan stated that the procurement plan should have been approved by the cabinet between 1 Oct and 30 November 2016, but the RTN proposed it to the cabinet only on 18 April 2017, which violated the 1959 Budget Procedures Act.

Amid public criticism, on 24 January 2017, Adm Jumpol Lumpiganon, spokesman of the RTN, announced that the government of Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha, the junta leader and Prime Minister, had approved the purchase of a submarine from China. The 13.5 billion baht purchase was cleared by the junta-appointed National Legislative Assembly.

The delivery of the Yuan Class S-26T submarine is expected in six years.