First, to quote Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva, The Nation:
“As the scientific testing proves, they don’t work, and we must rely on results that are in line with tests in foreign countries,” he told reporters yesterday.
“It’s too risky to continue using them, since they could mislead officials into thinking someplace was safe if nothing was indicated. But what if it was wrong? And it could be problematic if it was used to identify suspects; it could be a violation of human rights.“
Now, the Army Commander-in-Chief held a press conference yesterday and confirmed that the military would still use them per The Nation:
“I understand the scientific tests, but what the Army is trying to say is the device operators on the ground can use them effectively. This may not be explained scientifically, but I’m telling the truth,” Anupong said.
/>”As the men on the ground are impressed with it and demanded the equipment, it is the duty of the commander to procure them,” he said.
The Fourth Army Region Commander, Lt-General Pichet Wisaichorn, said: “We used our people to test it in real situations. If it was not working, the user would have thrown it away.”
/>A GT200 operator from the Pattani Task Force, Sergeant Pravit Chanawat, said at the press conference that he had tried the equipment since 2006 and had used it to save the lives of many people when it detected a bomb hidden in a car.
/>”As the GT200 pointed to the car, I told people nearby to move away. As the people were leaving the site, the bomb exploded. What would have happened if I had no GT200 then?” he said.
The Bangkok Post has more:
The three-hour news conference was attended by security officers from explosive ordnance disposal units and procurement departments who all confirmed the GT200 worked.
/>”They said the device worked effectively in over 300 operations,” Gen Anupong said.
/>Gen Anupong said he did not order a ban on the use of the GT200 because there was no alternative equipment.
/>”It is not that I am rejecting the test results or have a conflict with the prime minister. Do not assume that.
/>”We are here to say why the device has been procured and is in use,” he said.
/>The army has 757 GT200 detectors. Of these, 524 are used in the South. Each costs about 900,000 baht.
Matichon has more which have summarized below:
Abhisit stated at parliament yesterday that it will take time to explain and create an understanding with the military about the GT200 device (“ซึ่งต้องใช้เวลาในการอธิบายทำความเข้าใจ”)
The Science Minister stated after Anupong’s press conference that the Ministry’s test was according to scientific principles and that any test result between 0-5 is a failed test, but is happy for a re-test. She also stated that they would release the official report on February 23 together with video of the test. There will also be a test of the Alpha 6
The British Ambassador stated that “the British government has never supported the sale of the GT200 device to Thailand [and] when the British government became aware of suspicions of the quality of the GT200 device, we informed the Thai government and the Thai military of this and that the Thai authorities should do their own test. Well, we aware now that this test has been conducted and now the Thai military and government are reviewing the purchase and use of this device in Thailand” (“รัฐบาลอังกฤษไม่เคยส่งเสริมการขายจีที 200 ให้กับประเทศไทย เมื่อทางรัฐบาลอังกฤษทราบว่ามีความสงสัยในด้านประสิทธิภาพของจีที 200 เราได้แจ้งให้รัฐบาลไทยและทางทหารไทยทราบ และได้ขอให้ทางฝ่ายไทยดำเนินการตรวจสอบเอง ซึ่งเราทราบว่าได้มีการตรวจสอบแล้ว ซึ่งทางรัฐบาลและทางทหารไทยกำลังทบทวนนโยบายการซื้อและการใช้เครื่องมือนี้ ในประเทศไทย”)
BP: He is being very diplomatic….
Also, Suthep Duangchinda, at his website www.suthepd.com, stated that he had no connection with Avia Satcom and it was a transcription error by the website Bangkok Companies because his company Astra Technology was just before Avia on the list.
BP: Thought so as stated here.
For the press conference, Army C-in-C Anupong brought along IED explosive experts from all 4 army regions and others totalling more than 30 people. Also, in attendance was the entire top 5 of the miltiary brass (มี 5 เสือ ทบ. เข้าร่วมฟังแถลงข่าวด้วย) including Deputy Army C-in-C Prayuth and the First Army Region Commander.
Army spokesman Col Sansern stated that the army first started using the GT200 device in 2005. An air force representative stated that in 2005-2006 the Air Force stated using them Don Muang Air Force base. It worked. So a police station (สน.สายไหม) then contacted them to use the GT200 in Yala Province. It also worked there as well.
/>The use of the GT 200 by the military is in the real word situation, not like a lab test by the Ministry of Science
Under Surayud, the army purchased 59 devices, under Samak 107 devices, under Somchai 44, and under Abhisit 547 devices. In total, 757.
BP: It was quite extraordinary that while Abhisit was pointing out that the device does not work, the military brass were strongly defending it. This was not unattributed members of the military brass, it was the Army C-in-C in public himself at a press conference surrounded by the senior brass. Talk about open defiance and a prime example that civilians do not have control over the military.
Some other thoughts:
1. Can the Thai government now sue the manufacturer/ask for a refund when its own military states it works?
2. Was Anupong simply defending the GT200 device because he believes it works or was it that he is feeling pressure from within the miltiary to defend it, and given the view of some analysts including BP, that there is some tension and disagreement in the miltiary ranks so Anuong was wanting to unify the army.
3. Puea Thai have been criticizing the GT200 device so has ASTV Manager, if Abhisit wants to do something that they could both agree on he could voice his disapproval with the military’s continued use of the GT200 device. Will he though?
h/t to a reader for a pointer.