Thailand Defense and Security

By | December 17, 2021

In 2008, the Thai government launched an ambitious plan to modernize the means used by the armed forces. The bulk of the plan involved the purchase of 12 Jas-39 Gripen, aircraft produced in Sweden by Saab and suitable for both ground attacks and interception and reconnaissance operations, and two Erieye early warning and control aircraft (Awacs) . However, the economic crisis forced the government to postpone the purchase of the second tranche of six Jas-39s and one of the two Erieyes. Likewise, the purchase of armored vehicles and helicopters was postponed. In the first months of 2011, the desire to buy 4 second-hand submarines from Germany also emerged, but the government did not give the green light, letting the offer lapse. In any case, construction work on an underwater base began in 2012, escalation of tension in the South China Sea, both as Indonesia, Vietnam, Malaysia and Singapore are moving in the same direction. The flagship of the Thai military system consists of the aircraft carrier Chakri Naruebet – literally ‘in honor of the Chakri dynasty’ – of Spanish manufacture and launched in 1996. Considering that at a global level there are currently only 20 operational aircraft carriers, 10 of the as Americans, the added value in terms of prestige and military projection is considerable. China itself managed to launch the first aircraft carrier only in 2012. However, although military spending rose by 66% between 2002 and 2011, the Thai war industry is still underdeveloped and consequently the country is in a position almost total dependence on foreign supplies, especially Americans. Despite the economic crisis and structural weaknesses, Thailand manages to maintain a substantial defense budget while allocating 1.52% of GDP to it, a figure slightly below the global average. The ties with two powers of the caliber of the United States and China bring Thailand a considerable advantage in military terms, as the country has a close relationship with both of materials, technologies and know-how. With the USA, since 1980 the Cobra Gold joint military exercise has been held every year (Washington’s biggest breakthrough in the Asian chessboard) and, thanks to the status of ‘Major non-born ally’, Thailand enjoys preferential access to high-tech military supplies, such as depleted uranium ammunition. As for the People’s Republic of China, on the other hand, in 2005 the first Sino-Thai joint exercise took place in the Gulf of Thailand, which was also the first Chinese exercise with an ASEAN member state, and since then military cooperation has been it has grown stronger every year.¬†For Thailand defense and foreign policy, please check

Phra Viharn: Another bitter verdict from the International Court of Justice

Since October 2008, Thailand and Cambodia have clashed several times in the area surrounding the 11th-century Khmer temple complex that Thais call Phra Viharn and Cambodians Preah Vihear. The genesis of the dispute dates back to the French Indochina period, which in 1907 took over the area in question without the consent of Siam (hence the current claims). Following the independence of Cambodia, the International Court of Justice in 1962 ruled in favor of the latter and decreed the illegality of the Thai occupation. In 1975 the Khmer Rouge of Pol Pot took control of the site making it the scene of their operations and the temple returned to being a tourist attraction only in the late nineties, when the two contending states realized its potential. so much so that Thailand supported the candidacy of the site as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The cooperative moment, however, was shattered by the nationalist pressures that animated the so-called ‘Yellow Shirts’ in 2008, a Thai nationalist and monarchist movement linked to the People’s Alliance for Democracy (pAD). Paradoxically, the inclusion of the site in the UNESCO list has heightened tensions and since the autumn of 2008 there have been repeated firefights, which resulted in several dozen deaths on both sides and the periodic evacuation of thousands of farmers. residents in the border area. With Yingluck Shinawatra’s election victory, followed by a visit to Cambodia two months later, the two countries have resumed negotiating profitably, also taking advantage of the good relations between the Cambodian prime minister and Thaksin Shinawatra. The verdict of the International Court of Justice, however, confirmed Cambodian sovereignty over the temple area, while leaving the dispute for the neighboring areas unresolved, and if we add to this the political changes that have taken place in Thailand it cannot be excluded that the dispute will be again exploited in order to pursue internal policy objectives.

The southern explosion

The provinces of Songkhla, Pattani, Yala and Narathiwat, on the border with Malaysia, constituted an independent sultanate until two centuries ago, before coming under the control of Siam. In recent decades, separatist and autonomist tensions emanating from the Malaysian ethnic minority and Muslim faith who reside in the area have resulted in intense offensives against government forces, but between the 1980s and 1990s the government managed to pacify the region, granting it greater autonomy. However, with the political rise of Thaksin there was a repressive turn, manifested in the dissolution of the local council and a drastic increase in the presence of the police. This brought to light a problem that was only temporarily dormant, but still potentially explosive for the very integrity of Thailand. Since then, in fact, a real civil war has been underway with no holds barred, also exasperated by the close war on the drug trade, started by Thaksin himself at the beginning of 2003 and aimed at contrasting in particular the market of amphetamines from Myanmar and headed to Malaysia. In recent years there have been over 5,000 deaths and thousands of attacks. Violence also flared up due to the involvement of paramilitary troops and consequently to the taking of arms by Buddhist civilians. The only viable way seems to be the granting of substantial administrative autonomy, but to date there have been no such steps.

Thailand Defense and Security