US planning military depot in Thailand: Report

BANGKOK • The United States plans to set up a military arms maintenance centre in Thailand to supply and fix US armaments purchased by the Thai military, according to a Thai defence ministry source.

Although the US has not yet specified where it wants the centre located, the source revealed that the matter was discussed in the latest defence strategic talks between both countries, Bangkok Post reported yesterday.

The meeting was held at the Pentagon last month, and was attended by Thailand's defence ministry permanent secretary Theppong Thippayachan. It was chaired by top Pentagon adviser for Asian and Pacific security affairs David Helvey, the report said.

The annual talks were halted by the US after 2013, part of Washington's show of displeasure with the 2014 coup.

The US issued a brief press release on the meeting, which gave away little besides saying both sides reaffirmed their commitment to strengthen the 184-year-old US-Thai alliance.

According to the source, the US move to set up the centre came after China, Russia and Ukraine had also expressed an interest in doing the same, Bangkok Post said.

"Maintenance centres in Thailand would be considered advantageous for each of these countries, especially during negotiations regarding arms purchases between the respective parties," the source said. "The US has expressed concerns over the closer relationship between Thailand and China under the National Council for Peace and Order."

As of last October, the Royal Thai Army had 300 US-made battle tanks, 100 Stingray light tanks and 100 Scorpion tanks. It also acquired 20 tanks from Ukraine four years ago, Bangkok Post reported.

Earlier, the spokesman for the defence ministry, Mr Kongcheep Tantrawanit, said Thailand's and China's defence ministries agreed on a cooperation pact in September which would see an arms maintenance centre constructed in Khon Kaen and a warehouse built to store parts in Nakhon Ratchasima.

He said both projects were set for completion by next year.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 04, 2018, with the headline 'US planning military depot in Thailand: Report'. Print Edition | Subscribe