Thailand

Arms Sold:

Additional Arms:
Searcher UAV, Phyton, ATMOS-2000, Litening, Dominator-2 UAV, Red Sky 2, Orbiter-3 UAV, Small Arms

Companies:

Additional Companies:
Soltam Systems, Israeli Weapon Industries, Israeli Military Industries, EMTAN, Skylock (Avnon Group)

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Thailand

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Introduction

Israel and Thailand have had close economic, diplomatic and military relations since the 1950s. Israel exported to Thailand a big variety of arms including aircrafts, drones, towed guns, rifles, missiles and radars. Israel is a major arms exporter to Israel and according to Sipri, among the 10 major arms suppliers for Thailand between 2000-2020.

Israel-Thailand Relations

The countries have had official relations since June 1954. The Israeli embassy in Bangkok was established in 1958. Since 1996, Thailand has had an embassy in Tel Aviv. The First Foreign Ministries Working Dialogue was held in Jerusalem in 2002.((Thailand-Israel Relations | Bilateral Relations: Relations Overview))

There is a Thai-Israel Chamber of Commerce and the Thai-Israel Friendship Foundation. In 2012 the two countries signed a trade agreement and in 2014 a cooperation agreement.((Israel and Thailand sign a cooperation agreement)) In June and July 2018, Israeli commandos and technology supported Thai Navy SEALs during the highly publicized Tham Luang cave rescue mission.

Israel exports to Thailand were worth $381 million during 2018, according to the United Nations COMTRADE database.((Israel Exports to Thailand | TradingEconomics)) Between 2018-2020 the three biggest banks in Thailand all invested in Israeli VCs. In 2018 the Thailand-based Indorama Ventures purchased a 66% stake in Tel Aviv-listed hygienic fabric company Avgol Industries according to a valuation of around $480 million.((Teflon Thailand is primed for Israeli innovation solutions))

Military Relations

Israel and Thailand have maintained strong military relations since the beginning of relations between the two countries. In 1973 Thailand purchased 30 Gabriel anti-ship missiles from Israel. Between 1974-2000 Israel supplied Thailand with towed guns, aircrafts, aircraft systems and radars.((SIPRI))

Israel’s arms trade relationship with Thailand has expanded since the year 2000. Between the early 2000s and 2018, Thailand purchased Israeli-made defense equipment that included Searcher Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs), Python-4 missiles, Aerostar UAV, Elbit Systems-built ATMOS-2000 155-millimeter self-propelled gun, Hermes-450 UAVs, etc.((SIPRI))

In 2012, Israel’s company Elbit and the Royal Thai Army (RTA) launched a joint-production venture, involving technology transfers. Because of this, the mentioned Israeli firm reportedly built the first ATMOS platform in Israel, followed by production of the same item by the RTA’s Weapon Production Center in Thailand.((Thailand Eyeing Israel Artillery System))

In 2017 Thailand and Israel signed the THA Security Coop. 2017 agreement, a MOU between the Israeli Ministry of Defense and Thai Ministry of Defense regarding defense cooperation.((Thailand-Israel Relations | Bilateral Relations: Relations Overview))

Furthermore, counter-terrorism cooperation, including intelligence and information sharing, remains imperative as of 2020. In 2014 Thai police and Israeli intelligence units worked together to prevent an allegedly planned attack on Jewish targets in Bangkok.((Bangkok Terrorism Arrests Could Mark Latest Setback for Hizballah and Iran))

Thailand, along with 25 other nations including Israel, is taking part in Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) 2022, the world’s largest maritime exercise hosted by the US Third Fleet off the coast of Hawaii and Southern California.((Israel taking part in RIMPAC 2022, world’s largest maritime exercise))

In 2020 the Royal Thai army confirmed that they received Rafael’s Spike missile Systems.((Royal Thai Army receives Rafael Spike missile systems))

In August 2022 the Israeli arms company EMTAN announced the establishment of a small arms production and assembly plant in Thailand. EMTAN joined the local company SAHAPIPATTHANAKUA and government-owned defense company DTI Thailand, in order to establish a new Thai company, WMI – Weapon Manufacturing Industry. EMTAN officials say that for many years, the company has been supplying rifles and pistols to official government bodies in Thailand, and the need to move the assembly and production to Thailand is due to the increase in demand for its products.((EMTAN establishes small arms plant in Thailand))

In October 2022 the Royal Thai Navy awarded a $120m contract to Elbit Systems to supply Hermes 900 Maritime drones and training capabilities.((https://worldnationnews.com/royal-thai-navy-orders-elbit-systems-to-supply-hermes-900-maritime-drones/)

Cyber Security

In 2015 an Israeli sales team of a cyber company were detained by the Thai Army while making a business pitch at Bangkok’s police headquarters because they allegedly didn’t have licenses for for the product they tried to sell. They gave a demonstration to senior officers on mobile phone tracking technology.((In bizarre mix-up, 9 Israeli businessmen briefly detained by Thai army))

In 2016 and 2018 the Economic & Trade Mission at the Embassy of Israel in Bangkok in cooperation with the Israel Export & International Cooperation Institute (IEICI) organized the conference “Israel Cyber Security Roadshow to Thailand”, bringing together leading cybersecurity experts, well-known companies and institutions for an exchange of knowledge, methods and ideas.((Israel Cyber Roadshow to Thailand 2018)) The Israeli cyber security company Cellebrite participated in 2016.((“Cellebrite” joins Israel ICT Roadshow 2016))

In 2018, Citizenlab reported that Israeli NSO Group’s spyware Pegasus was being operated in Thailand between 2016-2018.((HIDE AND SEEK: Tracking NSO Group’s Pegasus Spyware to Operations in 45 Countries)) In 2020 Citizenlab’s reports showed that systems of the Israeli Company Circles were also in wide use in Thailand, being used by the local army and by the narcotics department in the Thailand police. One of the army units using a Circles‘ product, the Royal Thai Army Internal Security Operations Command, was accused in the past of torturing activists. In June of this year, the New York Times reported that at least nine Thai exiles, notable critics of the army and the Thai royal family, were kidnapped from the countries in which they were living.((Report reveals which countries are using Circles Technologies’ invasive spyware))

In 2019 Israeli companies and officials participated in the Cybertech Asia 2019 event in Thailand.((Cybertech Asia 2019 Draws Thousands to Bangkok))

In 2020 The Israeli military held its first joint cyber drill with Thai forces. The training drill was conducted by the Israel Defense Forces’ Command, Control, Communications, Computers, and Intelligence Directorate (C4I), as part of a program that has been in place since 2018.((Israel and Thailand hold first joint cyber exercise))

Usage of Israeli Arms

ATMOS – Royal Thai Army operates the ATMOS system, and has integrated it on a 6×6, ten-ton TATRA truck.((Thailand Eyeing Israel Artillery System)) 12 guns are in use by 721 artillery battalions and another 36 systems for other units. The Royal Thai Marine Corps was also reported to receive another six ATMOS systems.((Israeli Tavor-21 assault rifles spotted at Thailand’s Royal Coronation))

Cardom – SPEAR version used by Royal Thai Army

Uzi machine guns – In use by Thai military police.

IWI Tavor rifles – In use by Infantry units of the Royal Thai Army and by Soldiers of the Royal Thai King’s Guard.((Israeli Tavor-21 assault rifles spotted at Thailand’s Royal Coronation)) Around 76,000 TAR-21 rifles are in use by the army. The Thai army first used the Israeli rifles in 2007.

IWI X95 assault rifles – In use by Infantry units of the Royal Thai Army

IMI Galil assault rifles – In use by Infantry units of the Royal Thai Army

IWI Ace assault rifles – In use by Infantry units of the Royal Thai Army

Hermes-450 – operated by the 21st Aviation Battalion at the Army Aviation Centre at Lopburi.((Thailand expands ties with Israel through UAV acquisition))

IAI Searcher – In use by Royal Thai Air Force.

Soltam M-71 – In use by Royal Thai Army.

Red Sky 2 Drone Defender System – was deployed to protect the participants of funeral ceremonies for the former King of Thailand Bhumibol Adulyadej in October 2018. Following the successful initial operation, the Thai authorities used the system again in November, during the Royal Thai NAVY International Fleet Review event in Pattaya.((Israel’s “Red Sky 2” Drone Defender System Was Used for the First Time at Thai King’s Funeral))

Circles surveillance system – being used by the local army, by the narcotics department in the Thailand police and the Royal Thai Army Internal Security Operations Command, was accused in the past of torturing activists.((Report reveals which countries are using Circles Technologies’ invasive spyware))

Pegasus – was being operated in Thailand. CitizenLab exposed it was used against Thailand’s pro-democracy movement and activists. At least 30 individuals were infected with the spyware between 2020-2021.((Pegasus Spyware Used against Thailand’s Pro-Democracy Movement))

Spike – In use by Royal Thai Army.((Royal Thai Army receives Rafael Spike missile systems))

UFED – used by Thai Police((Suspicious baggage leads to arrest of Vietnam poachers on Thailand trips)), Department of Special Investigation((Thailand DSI Annual Report 2019)) and Customs((Bangkok counter-trafficking organization and Thai Customs use Cellebrite’s Analytics)).

Skylock Anti-Drone Systems – In use by Thailand’s Navy.((Thailand’s Navy Purchases Israeli Counter-Drone System))

Human Rights Violations

From 1977 to 1988, Amnesty International reported that there “…were 1,436 alleged cases of arbitrary detention, 58 forced disappearances, 148 torture [sic] and 345 extrajudicial killings in Thailand….The authorities investigated and whitewashed each case.”((Anistia internacional – informe 2017/18: O estado dos direitos humanos no mundo))

Since 2018, there have been 11 physical assaults on political activists in Thailand. Police investigations of the assaults have shown no progress.((Speech justifying violence against activists must stop))

According to Amnesty Thailand, at least 59 human-rights defenders have been victims of forced disappearance since 1998.((Bill on torture to go before NLA)) The Bangkok Post counts 80 confirmed disappeared, and likely murdered, since 1980. A report compiled in 2018 by the Thai Lawyers for Human Rights Centre showed that at least 86 political refugees left the country after the 2014 coup d’état for coup-related reasons.((Post-Coup Overview on Exiles: ‘at least’ 6 disappeared, 2 dead, almost a hundred in flight)) The government of Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha continues to refuse to criminalize torture and enforced disappearances.((Horror of the disappeared))

Between 2014 and April 2018, Thai authorities arrested at least 105 people on lèse-majesté charges, mostly for posting or sharing critical commentary online about the monarchy. Some of those charged under lèse-majesté for critical Facebook posts were sentenced to decades in prison. Peaceful protesters have also faced arrest, harassment, and criminal prosecution. Immediately after the coup, the junta ordered a ban on political gatherings of more than five people—a ban that remained in place until December 2018. Hundreds of peaceful protesters have been arrested and charged with violating that ban, with some also charged with violating the 2015 Public Assembly Law, sedition, and other criminal laws.((“To Speak Out is Dangerous”: The Criminalization of Peaceful Expression in Thailand))

Torture has long been a problem in Thailand, but the penal code still does not recognize torture as a criminal offense. Between 2016 and 2018, the National Human Rights Commission of Thailand received more than 100 torture allegations from the deep south provinces of Pattani, Yala, and Narathiwat, where the military routinely uses a combination of the Martial Law Act and the Emergency Decree on Public Administration in a State of Emergency to detain and interrogate suspects for up to 37 days without charge or access to legal counsel. Between 2014-2019, the junta put more than 1,800 civilians on trial before military tribunals.((World Report 2020: Thailand | Human Rights Watch))

Human rights NGOs consider Thailand “…a place that’s no longer safe for refugees.” Since the 2014 Thai coup d’état, Thailand has sent 109 Uighurs back to China and a further 52 have been detained for about five years. Gulenists have been refouled to Turkey and others to repressive regimes in the Middle East.((Hun Sen branded him a traitor. He fled the country but thugs found him))

2010 Violence

Despite evidence showing that soldiers were responsible for most casualties during the 2010 political confrontations with the United Front for Democracy Against Dictatorship (the “Red Shirts”) that left at least 90 dead and more than 2,000 injured, no military personnel or officials from the government of former Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva have been charged for killing or wounding demonstrators or bystanders.((Thailand: No Justice 9 Years After ‘Red Shirt’ Crackdown))((World Report 2020: Thailand | Human Rights Watch))