Submarine panel ‘must put national interests first’

Submarine panel 'must put national interests first'

Submarine panel 'must put national interests first'
Navy chief Adm Adung Phan-iam

Navy chief Adm Adung Phan-iam says he expects the submarine procurement review panel to make recommendations based on national interests while stressing that submarines have an integral role in the navy’s strategy.

Speaking ahead of the panel’s second meeting on Wednesday, he said the navy is ready to address all questions about the submarine programme and urged panel members to give honest opinions that will determine the submarine project’s future.

The project hit a significant stumbling block when Germany refused to supply a diesel engine for the vessel. China Shipbuilding & Offshore International Co (CSOC) has offered a Chinese-built one instead.

Defence Minister Sutin Klungsang, who previously said he favoured shelving the project and buying another frigate instead, formed the panel last month to review the sub procurement.

The panel, chaired by his adviser, Gen Somsak Roongsita, a former secretary-general of the National Security Council, includes the navy chief, naval academics and representatives from the Finance Ministry, the Office of the Attorney-General and several politicians.

The panel, which first met on Feb 6, is expected to deliver recommendations in 30 days.

The navy chief said Mr Sutin had told the panel to look at three key issues — the navy’s needs, the state of international affairs and the feasibility of the option selected.

He said the navy is open to all options, and the committee will be the one to weigh up advantages and disadvantages and determine feasibility.

Asked if the navy wants to push ahead with the submarine programme, Adm Adung said the service is looking to carry out the former navy chiefs’ policy and fulfil the navy’s strategy, which envisions submarines as a deterrent.

However, if the panel has a better alternative, the navy is ready to accept it, he added.

“I hope that everyone will base their decision on the national interest and the nation’s dignity,” Adm Adung said.

To the question of how the navy can defend the nation’s maritime interests should the Chinese submarine take another three or four years to construct, he said surface ships can do the job. The submarine will be deployed only as a deterrent, he said.

Adm Adung declined to comment on the plan for the joint exploitation of hydrocarbon resources in the Overlapping Claims Area (OCA) in the Gulf of Thailand claimed by Thailand and Cambodia. He said the navy’s role in the matter is to defend the nation’s territorial waters and does not extend to any international agreements negotiated by the Foreign Ministry.