Bangkok - Thanks to Thai farm products such as the longan fruit, the Thai Army will soon have possession of new military hardware from China and Russia. Under barter deals signed recently, Thailand will acquire Chinese armoured vehicles and Russian helicopters in exchange for Thai agriculture products.
Such deals are in line with the Thaksin government's policy of procuring weapons through barter agreements for Thai farm products.
Quoting security sources, the Bangkok Post said China had agreed to provide 132 armoured vehicles, worth about 1.6 billion baht (US$38.6 million) in a swap for longan. The deal was concluded during Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra's visit to Beijing last week.
''China was very cooperative with our proposal, otherwise the deal was unlikely to go through,'' a security source said.
The barter agreement with Russia - in which Thailand will receive the delivery of four MI-17 helicopters in return for writing off Moscow debt for the purchase of Thai rice - was sealed during Army Commander Pravit Wongsuwan's one-week visit to the country.
Russia reportedly owed Thailand US$25 million for its purchases of Thai rice. The balance would be made up with agricultural products from Thailand.
The Chinese armoured cars will be used by the Thai Army, Marine and Border Patrol Police units while the Russian multi-purpose helicopters will be assigned transport and logistical missions.
* Choppers wipe out rice debt (Bangkok Post, July 3)