The US State Department has approved the possible sale to Thailand of 60 eight-wheeled Stryker armoured personnel carriers in a deal estimated to be worth US$175 million.
If US congressional approval is given, Thailand will become the first non-US user of the vehicle.
The Thai generals are also seeking to buy 60 M2 Flex machine guns to be mounted on the vehicles, which would prove threatening if used to break street protests.
The agreement was covered in the Thai media but without any reference to the vehicle’s potential uses when crushing urban gatherings.
The purchase also reportedly comes with four M6 smoke grenade launchers per vehicle and driver’s vision enhancers.
“This proposed sale will support the foreign policy and national security objectives of the United States by helping to improve security of a major non-Nato ally in Indo-Pacom, which is an important force for political stability and economic progress in the region,” the Defence Security Cooperation Agency statement said, without any reference to Thailand’s appalling human rights record since the May 2014 coup.
In 2014, Washington condemned the coup but now appears keen to bolster the same military with weaponry that is ideally suited for crushing protests in the name of “political stability”.
Major US arms sales to the kingdom have been in limbo since the 2014 coup. It appears Washington has used the controversial March general election as evidence of a return to civilian rule, despite the fact that the same generals have managed to retain power through a rigged voting system.
“The Stryker vehicles will increase Thailand’s capability to defend its sovereign territory against traditional and non-traditional threats by filling the capability void between light infantry soldiers and heavy mechanised units. Thailand will have no difficulty absorbing this equipment into its armed forces,” the agency said.
The Royal Thai Army said in May it had agreed to buy 37 “refurbished” M1126 Stryker armoured vehicles for US$80 million.
The May agreement is believed to be part of the 60-vehicle deal.
David McKeeby of the State Department’s Bureau of Political-Military Affairs told the media that “most if not all” of the Strykers destined for Thailand would be refurbished.
Thailand, a traditional US ally, has recently bought armoured vehicles from China, including tanks.
The Stryker is probably a greater threat to peaceful protesters across Thailand’s 76 provinces than a tank because it is smaller and wheeled, meaning it is capable of deploy swiftly with an entire infantry section inside, crushing barricades and entering the smallest of streets at great speed. It would be able to resist firebombs and anything less threatening than high explosive.
The sale still needs US congressional approval.
The principal contractor for the Stryker is General Dynamics Land Systems.
Coming to a peaceful protest near you: the Stryker armoured personnel carrier. Picture credit: US Defence