Thailand, U.S. sign landmark information exchange agreement

Kelli L. Seybolt, U.S. deputy under-secretary of the Air Force, International Affairs and Lt. Gen. Somkiat Sampan, Thailand’s Director-General of Defense Science and Technology Department, signed a milestone agreement June 1 to collaborate on defense technologies.

The leaders signed the information exchange agreement during a virtual ceremony. Titled “Remote Sensing for Base Perimeter Defense,” it is the first international armaments cooperation collaboration between the U.S. Department of Defense and Thai Ministry of Defense.

“This important step forward is just the latest manifestation of our deep and enduring relationship,” Seybolt said. “United by our shared commitment to a free and open Indo-Pacific, Thailand is our oldest friend and ally in Asia, and our close cooperation reflects a friendship of nearly two centuries.”

Somkiat added: “Our relationship and our cooperation in the past … made this [information exchange agreement] possible.”

The topic for the agreement was first proposed by Thailand, and overlapped with current research activities and interests of the U.S. Air Force. There are now inexpensive, field-deployable technologies that have the potential to defend installations using automated remote sensing.

The agreement will allow both parties to advance the theory and testing needed for systems that can sense, detect, and classify installation threats. Commercial off-the-shelf prototypes from both Thailand and the U.S. will be tested, and feedback shared.

Exploratory discussions were first held at the Royal Thai Air Force Academy with representation from the U.S. Air Force Institute of Technology, the U.S. Air Force Academy, Secretary of the Air Force International Affairs, and the Joint United States Military Advisory Group Thailand in November 2019.

“It is a thrill to expand the scope of our security cooperation with Thailand,” Seybolt concluded. “And it is our sincere hope that this is only the start of a robust series of cooperative activities in next-generation defense technologies.”

Photo credit: Video screenshot by Lynette Whitesell.  Thai Ministry of Defense Lt. Gen. Somkiat Sampan, Defence Science and Technology Department director-general (left) and Kelli L. Seybolt, U.S. deputy under-secretary of the Air Force, International Affairs.

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