Debate over Thai Interest in Swedish Planes

Controversey continues here in Sweden over the possible sale of Swedish Gripen fighter aircraft to Thailand.

The Thai Air Force has asked the Thai government for permission to buy 12 Swedish jet fighters – ruling out American and Russian rivals.

Swedish Prime Minister Frederik Reinfeldt says he supports the sale even though he can not classify Thailand as a democracy but rather as a nation moving towards a democratic rule.

Some Swedish opposition leaders criticize the center-right government’s support of the sale – arguing Swedish regulations ban the sale of weapons to dictatorships or to countries where internal conflict claims lives.

The head of the largest opposition party, the Social Democrats, says she needs more information before she can comment on the deal.  Party leader Mona Salin was responding to journalist’s questions about why the former Social Democratic government was eager to sell the aircraft to Thailand.

Gripen’s Swedish manufacturers have been desperate to sell or lease the aircraft to help cover the high costs of production – and argue a sale to Thailand would open new markets in Asia, especially India.