Thailand Elects to Purchase Chinese Attack Submarines

On April 26, 2017, the China Shipbuilding Industry Corporation (CSIC) signed a contract with Thailand’s military government for the sale of three S26T Yuan-class submarines at an estimated cost of $1.04 billion.  Two additional units are expected to be purchased over the next 10 years.

The contract makes Thailand the second foreign customer to acquire this equipment from CSIC.  Thai Deputy Prime Minister Prawit Wongsuwan indicated that Chinese vessels were chosen for procurement for their competitive prices, indicating also that the pending need to protect Thailand’s “natural resources in the Andaman Sea” prompted the purchase.   Critics argue that the warships have little to zero strategic value given their pricing and quality.

This sale had previously been delayed by the Thai government over concern that it would put distance between them and the U.S. military, also reinforcing the perception of a strategic shift by Bangkok in the direction of Beijing under the military government.  It had previously been reported that such a purchase would entail a level of training and cooperation that was seen as a concern with regard to the existing bilateral military operating framework between Thailand and the United States.