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Thai security forces spend $30 million on fake ‘bomb detectors’
BANGKOK — Thailand’s security forces bought more than 1,500 fake “bomb detectors” for $30 million, investigators say, and the army deploys them against Islamist rebels despite a U.S. Embassy warning that the devices are as useless as “a toy.”
The Department of Special Investigation announced this month that the manufacturers and distributors of the devices fraudulently sold them to Thailand's military, narcotics bureau, airports and other security agencies. The DSI has sent the case to the National Anti-Corruption Commission for further investigation.
About a dozen government agencies purchased 1,576 of the handheld units, called GT200 and Alpha 6.
“Do not say the GT200 used as a bomb detector in the far south does not work,” Defense Minister Sukumpol Suwanatat said last week, referring to the area of Thailand where 40,000 troops are fighting Muslim separatists. “It has often detected explosives.”
More than 5,000 people have died in the conflict since 2004, and many were killed by bombs.
However, some observers believe the military simply refuses to admit it made a mistake.
“For the military to admit that they were duped into buying useless bomb detectors may invite unwanted investigation into suspected corruption,” the Bangkok Post’s former editor Veera Prateepchaikul wrote this month.
There is no public evidence of wrongdoing by military officials linked to the contracts.
Since 2007, the Border Patrol Police Bureau, the Office of the Narcotics Control Board, the Justice Ministry’s Institute of Forensic Science, the Customs Department and other agencies purchased hundreds more of the devices.
The Defense Ministry’s Royal Aide-de-Camp Department — responsible for the security of Thailand’s royal family — also bought the equipment.
The Department of Special Investigation said a British company, ComsTrac Ltd., produced and sold GT200s and Alpha 6s to Thailand. The devices include a small plastic box topped with a plastic cylinder, which can be gripped by hand.
By Brahma Chellaney
Beijing's creeping aggression signals a challenge to U.S. presence in the Asian Pacific
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