Russia could sell aircraft and other military equipment to Thailand as part of increased trade cooperation between the two nations, Russian trade minister Denis Manturov said Wednesday. Western nations, including the United States, have been less willing to trade with Thailand since its current Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha seized control of the nation in a military coup last May.
“We are feeling out the interest on the Thai side to purchase military equipment,” Manturov told Reuters. “Our friends from the Western part of the world are ignoring Thailand." The trade minister was part of Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev’s delegation to Thailand, the first of its kind in a quarter-century.
Russia also plans to increase its purchase of Thailand’s rubber in 2016 to four times what it plans to buy in 2015. Manturov said the 2016 figure could approach 80,000 tons of rubber, which state-owned defense firm Rostec would then use to make tires. Russia will deliver three Sukhoi Superjet passenger planes to Thailand by late next year or early 2017, he added.
Both Russia and China have increased their communication with Thailand since Western nations began to lessen their contact with Prayuth’s government. Thailand and China held a military summit this week at the same time that Medvedev and Manturov traveled to Bangkok.
Medvedev and Prayuth met Wednesday at Thailand’s Government House to discuss trade, tourism and the war against drug crime. The negotiations led to five signed agreements and Prayuth declared the two nations hope to increase bilateral trade to $10 billion by the end of 2016.
The U.S. State Department expressed concern in late March after Prayuth sarcastically remarked he would punish Thai journalists who contributed to “division” within the nation, the Associated Press reported. U.S. President Barack Obama’s administration placed a hold on $4.7 million in military aid to Thailand, citing tactics Prayuth’s regime has used to police the nation’s citizens.