Thailand delayed on Monday its $724 million purchase of two submarines from China, following public outrage over the controversial deal as the kingdom’s economy flattens due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Under a 2015 deal, Thailand was one of the first countries to buy Chinese naval hardware and finalised its purchase of three submarines in 2017, with the first one expected to be delivered in 2023.

An order for two more for 22.5 billion baht ($723.9 million) was approved earlier this month by a parliamentary sub-committee — a move which drew public outcry as Thailand struggles with a freefalling economy.

Angry Thais took to social media to criticise the deal and the hashtag “People don’t want submarines” trended on Twitter.

Government spokesman Anucha Burapachaisri announced Monday Prime Minister Prayut Chan-O-Cha — also defence minister — had “requested the navy to consider a delay” in the purchase of the two additional submarines.

“The navy will negotiate with China to delay for another year,” Anucha told reporters.


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