BANGKOK: Thailand plans to set up a defence technology industrial estate and become an independent weapons manufacturer.
Its Defence Ministry said the move was in line with the government’s plan, which lists weaponry as its 11th target industry to promote economic growth.
According to the Bangkok Post, Defence Ministry permanent secretary General Nat Intharacharoen said the goal of the plan was to be self-reliant in the field.
To this end, Thailand has established the Defence Industry, Energy Centre and Weapon Production Centre for research and development, though the facilities are not up to scratch to produce weapons on a large scale.
Speaking while presiding over the Royal Thai Air Force Symposium to discuss the air force’s role in territorial defence missions, Nat said the Defence Ministry was surveying an area to build the new industrial estate for defence technology to kickstart the industry.
Sources said the government was considering the western province of Kanchanaburi and the eastern province of Chon Buri as prospective construction sites for the defence industrial estate.
Defence observers said the Thai Air Force had shown the potential for creating defence technology after it developed an Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) named UAV RTAF-U1.
Nat said the military had to focus more on cooperation and joint investments with other countries to fuel further developments in this new sector.
Air Force chief Maanat Wongwat said he was planning to boost the number of personnel specialising in defence technology by offering a master’s degree in the field at the Navaminda Kasatriyadhiraj Royal Thai Air Force Academy.
“What we want is new research projects that can lead to a practical outcome.”
He said 20 graduates from the fields of engineering, aerospace technology and chemicals would be chosen and provided with two-year scholarships which would help the students deepen their knowledge in UAV, planes and satellites.
Thailand is set to launch its first military satellite, Napa 1, at the Guiana Space Centre in French Guiana on March 24.
It is expected to play a crucial role in the air force’s defence system.