29 September 2011

Thailand's Cabinet Approves Fennec Procurement

29 September 2011

Eurocopter AS 550 Fennec (photo : Militaryphotos)

Flustered PM baffles press with incorrect comment

Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra apparently forgot which items were on the cabinet agenda yesterday, causing confusion when she confirmed the navy's submarine procurement project had received cabinet approval before retracting her statement hours later.

Emerging from the cabinet meeting at 2pm yesterday, Ms Yingluck appeared confused when asked about the navy's second-hand submarine procurement plan and the army's Black Hawk helicopter procurement plan.

"I don't remember. The cabinet considered 37 items today. The submarine procurement project has already been approved," she said.

Ms Yingluck later assigned the government spokesman team to address the blunder.

Deputy government spokesman Chalitrat Chandru-beksa braved the rain to correct Ms Yingluck's statement.

He told the media that the prime minister misunderstood a reporter's question about the submarines and helicopter projects. The cabinet yesterday approved the army's proposal to buy eight French-made helicopters, not the navy's submarine project, said Mr Chalitrat.

The army's Black Hawk helicopter procurement plan has yet to be considered by the Budget Bureau. The deputy spokesman said the navy's proposal was not on yesterday's cabinet agenda.

A source said government spokeswoman Thitima Chaisaeng immediately called a meeting with members of the spokesman team following Ms Yingluck's confusing remark.

The spokesman team tried to explain to reporters that the prime minister may have been referring to the Marine Department's plan to buy boats for use in the exercise of using their propellers to speed up the flow of water out of flooded areas, the source said.

However, the propeller boats were not on yesterday's meeting agenda.

Mr Chalitrat said the cabinet approved a tied-over-budget for the army's project to procure eight Eurocopter AS 550 helicopters at 1.59 billion baht.

Ms Yingluck had reportedly asked the army to review the 2.8-billion-baht Black Haw procurement plan. She wanted the army to study details and technical issues of the US helicopters.

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