The Thai junta is reported to be investing heavily in the US-based Theia Satellite Network, a web of 112 surveillance satellites carrying high-tech cameras, radar and infrared optics that will apparently be able to see through clouds and trees.
An estimated 1.47 petabytes of data is due to be transmitted per day with a projected start date of 2023, photographing the globe in 500cm squares.
The Thai authorities will reportedly invest at least US$2 billion in the “spy network”, although the secretive generals have denied the allegations.
General Porpol Maneerin, chairman of the Defence Technology Institute (DTI), a research and development branch of the defence ministry, said there were no plans to “buy the satellites”, although this was not the original claim.
“The company has just invited us to be master programme partners, or to put it simply, co-investment partners,” Porpol told The Nation.
The DTI had signed a letter of acknowledgement with the company, he said, meaning it would study the benefits of the satellite network for Thailand.
There was no obligation to buy the satellites, the general said.
Theia was not a surveillance company but specialised in mineral and natural resource exploration from the sky, he added.
“The group of experts plan to create this satellite network for commercial and security purposes and they invited us to join. We have not yet talked about the investment and potential returns. We are studying how it will serve other ministries or organisations in Thailand,” said the general.
Porpol, who denied the US$2-billion price tag, told the English-language paper: “I think it is worth the investment as we could harvest information and make use of it.”
A 2016 regulatory filing with the US Federal Communications Commission said the Theia Satellite Network (TSN) was an “observation and communications network designed to provide unique remote sensing and communications products and services to a variety of users in the United States and worldwide”.
“TSN will employ a constellation of 112 operational satellites in low-earth orbit … that incorporate remote sensing, signal processing and communications payloads. TSN is designed to collect, process and deliver remote sensing information products directly to end users on demand,” it said.
The Theia Group has purportedly invited Thailand to be its Asean partner along with the US, Kazakhstan and Saudi Arabia. If Bangkok declines, the offer would go to the Philippines.
The DTI has allegedly already signed documents with the Theia Group committing to participate, it was claimed.
The Thai military is secretive about how it spends the national budget. Picture credit: Wikimedia