Thailand’s Military on the March

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Organizers of Defense & Security 2013 in Bangkok tout the event as the fastest-growing military exhibition in the region. The tri-service show started off as a small event in 2003, so this year marks its 10th anniversary. This year, more than 400 manufacturers from 50 countries have booked booths to present their wares in the Kingdom’s capital from 4-7 November. In 2013, there are no fewer than 19 national pavilions represented.

Asia is one of the fastest-growing regions for military spending worldwide – indeed it will overtake European spending this year for the first time ever – and ASEAN members are contributing to this trend.

Indeed, the ten-member ASEAN is expected to feature prominently among the 200 official delegations and 25 defense ministers attending the IMPACT Exhibition Center in Bangkok.

Organizers are promising a full display of weapon systems, guns, missiles, tanks, unmanned aerial systems, vehicles, vessels and communications technology throughout the 13,500 M2 of floor space. As well as army, air force and navy equipment, Defense & Security 2013 also boasts products for the internal-security arena.

The latter is certainly important to Thailand as it battles a Muslim Malay-led insurgency in its three southernmost provinces of Pattani, Yala and Narathiwat. The conflict flared in 2004, and it has claimed 5,500 lives and wounded nearly 10,000 so far.

Militants have been conducting increasingly complex operations, but the government hopes an historic agreement signed on 28 February, that begun a dialogue with the major Barisan revolusi Nasional (BRN) militant group, will contribute towards a more peaceful situation.

Currently, just 10% of the Thai military equipment is produced domestically, and the country wants to improve this situation. One way of doing this could be through a defense-offset policy that the Thai MOD may enact in 2014.

This article by Gordon Arthur was first published in a special edition of Asian Defense & Diplomacy magazine, for Defense & Security Thailand, 2013

Following are three reviews of recent acquisition programs in Thailand, featuring air, naval and land systems: