SPECIAL REPORT-Weapons, frozen chicken, and the art of diplomacy – Forexyard, March 5, 2011
…For the embassy in Bangkok, winning achieved two goals: helping Lockheed and keeping the Russians from selling planes. There was, however, a small complication with the terms — the Thai government didn’t want to pay cash. Instead, it proposed trading 80,000 stockpiled tons of frozen chicken.
“Embassy contacts said that until Lockheed Martin offered a proposal to sell F-16s that included countertrade, the (Thai government) could not seriously consider its offer. Contacts also suggested that an offer that included an agreement to buy Thai chicken would be especially welcome,” the embassy said in a March 2005 cable setting the scene for the competition.
A May 2005 cable indicates Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra personally raised the bird barter issue with Admiral William Fallon, then-head of the U.S. Pacific Command. Days later, word got to Thaksin that Lockheed was willing to play ball.
“It was a negotiating tactic by Thaksin. But until relatively late in the game, Lockheed was reticent to engage. They finally agreed to talk … but it was too late,” the former U.S. diplomat in Asia said, terming the whole episode “comical” in a way.
Things didn’t quite work out, though. After a military coup the new Thai government ended up buying Swedish jets, fearing it wouldn’t be allowed to buy the Lockheed planes because of post-coup sanctions. (The embassy contacted the government to disabuse them of the notion, to no avail).
Lockheed declined to comment on both the fighter competition in Thailand and the proposed sale of planes in Chad…
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