Thailand to buy $ 211 million of foreign arms

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BANGKOK, Sep25 (Reuters) Thailand's post-coup government has approved the 6.7 billion baht (211 million dollars ) purchase of Israeli guns, Ukrainian armoured vehicles and Chinese missiles, a cabinet spokesman said today.

The army would spend 960 million baht on 15,000 rifles and 259 million baht on 992 sub-machine guns from Israel, Nattawat Suthiyothin said after a cabinet meeting.

The cabinet also approved 3.9 billion baht for 96 Ukraine-built BTR-3E1 armoured personnel vehicles, produced by state-owned Kharkiv Morozov Machine Building Design Bureau, after heavy lobbying by Russia, China, and Canada failed.

The navy would pay 1.6 billion baht for ground-to-ground missiles from China, Nattawat said without giving further details.

The military, which ousted elected Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra in a bloodless coup last year, has faced criticism for buying new equipment at a time when Thailand's economic growth has slowed due to post-coup political uncertainties.

Defence Minister Boonrawd Somtas told Reuters last month the military needed new tanks, ships, fighter jets and helicopters after the 1997/98 Asian financial crisis had capped annual defence spending at 80 billion baht in the past decade.

Next year's budget allocates 143 billion baht to defence spending.

REUTERS JK ND1550

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