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Thai army to acquire eight U.S. light attack helicopters

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BANGKOK (Reuters) – Thailand’s army is planning to purchase eight American-made helicopters in a deal worth 4.2 billion baht (111.4 million pounds), the army spokesman said on Thursday.

The purchase of the eight Boeing Co. AH-6i light attack reconnaissance helicopters and related equipment is the second major U.S.-made weapons acquisition by the Thai army this year after a period of arms deals with China under the former military regime.

Representatives for Boeing were not immediately available for comment.

Last month, the Thai army announced plans to buy 70 U.S.-made Stryker armoured personnel carriers worth 3.7 billion baht, the first time Washington has exported this type of vehicle through its Foreign Military Sales programme, a U.S. Embassy spokeswoman in Bangkok told Reuters.

The United States curbed military aid to Thailand following a 2014 coup and the Thai military later turned to China and other countries for weapons.

But ties improved after Thailand held an election earlier this year that officially restored civilian rule, although the new government is led by former junta leader Prayuth Chan-ocha.

“Thailand and the U.S. have long enjoyed good relations and we trained together,” said Kongcheep Tantravanich, the Thai defence ministry spokesman.

“Thai weapons must come from many sources,” he said, adding: “We have to maintain a balance with everyone so we are accepted by all.”

Earlier this month, the Thai navy said it plans to buy a Chinese-made amphibious transport vessel in a deal worth 6 billion baht.

(Reporting by Panu Wongcha-um and Panarat Thepgumpanat; Editing by Raju Gopalakrishnan)

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