Thailand’s Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha, a former general who had previously taken power in a coup before winning an election, has ordered the suspension of the Southeast Asian nation’s arms acquisition programs, including the Royal Thai Navy’s plan to buy two submarines.

This was reported by the Bangkok Post newspaper last week, citing an unnamed a government source.

Paryut, who also serves as Thailand’s defence minister, also reportedly met Deputy Defence Minister General Chaichan Changmongkol to discuss a proposal to cut the Thailand’s defence budget by 10%  to support Thailand’s efforts to combat the Covid-19 pandemic.

The Bangkok Post reported that Prayut has instructed the Defence Ministry to halt all arms procurement projects, including the navy’s plan to buy its second and third submarines, as well as the air force’s plan to upgrade its fleet of aircraft and buy new training aircraft.

Thailand is planing to acquire three Chinese-built S26T diesel-electric submarines, in a purchase seen in many quarters as unnecessary given the Royal Thai Navy’s other pressing concerns such as humanitarian missions and littoral operations.

Meanwhile, the Royal Thai Air Force has set its eyes on a new combat aircraft to replace its older Lockheed-Martin F-16s, with an four phase acquisition plan for six new fighters each planned for 2023-2026, 2025-2028, 2028-2031 and 2030-2033.

The RTAF also plans to acquire more South Korean KAI T-50TH trainers to replace its Aero Vodochody L-39 trainers (pictured above) which are due to be phased out in 2022, with two more T-50THs planned to be acquired with delivery taking the same year. the L-39s are retired. These were planned to join the RTAF’s 12 examples already on order.

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