Thai army reaffirms usage of GT200-dowsing rod for bomb detection

Originally published at Siam Voices on July 14, 2012 Thailand's army chief General Prayuth Chan-ocha has reaffirmed that the Royal Thai Army will keep on using the controversial GT200, a bogus device that is supposed to detect explosive materials among other substances. The device, effectively nothing more than an empty plastic shell with a dowsing rod, has been proven ineffective numerous times and the UK-based manufacturer has now been charged for fraud. Despite this, the GT200 has been spotted being still used by Thai soldiers at various times. Bangkok Pundit has some more background and some history on its usage in the Thai army.

The Bangkok Post has provided some soundbites by the army chief himself on the GT200 that are worth highlighting here:

Gen Prayuth yesterday said the GT200 will continue to be used by the army in the far South. (...) The GT200 has been widely used by security officers in Thailand's troubled deep South.

However*, in Krungthep Turakij he is being quoted that the 4th Army Region, which covers the troubled South of Thailand, is not using it anymore. In the border region, insurgent violence has claimed thousands of lives in the past, many of them caused by IEDs (improvised explosive devices).

เมื่อถามย้ำว่ากองทัพภาคที่ 4 ยังใช้จีที 200 หรือไม่ พล.อ.ประยุทธ์ กล่าวว่า ไม่ได้ใช้แล้ว (...) หลังจากที่เครื่องมือตรวจวัตถุระเบิดมีปัญหาทาง พล.อ.ประยุทธ์ ก็สั่งการไม่กำลังพลในกองทัพภาคที่ 4 ใช้งานเพราะเกรงว่ากำลังพลจะไม่ปลอดภัย และขณะนี้ จีที 200 ถูกเก็บไว้ในกองทัพภาคที่ 4

When asked about whether or not the 4th Army Region is still using the GT200, General Prayuth says it is not being used anymore. (...) After the bomb-detecting devices have been found problematic, General Prayuth has ordered personnel in the 4th Army Region not to use it because it was deemed unsafe and the GT200 devices have been stored in the 4th Army Region.

"'ประยุทธ์'แจงทบ.ไม่ได้ใช้'จีที200'แล้ว", Krungthep Turakij, July 13, 2012

Nevertheless, Prayuth still somehow has faith in these dowsing rods:

"I affirm that the device is still effective. Other armed forces are also using it," the army chief said. (...) The army chief said the GT200 has proven to be effective in the army's operations in the past. But he would respect any scientific test if it proves otherwise.

Where was Prayuth in 2009 when the Abhisit administration has ordered a scientific test? The results were devastating: out of 20 tests, the device only 'worked' 4 times - probably as accurate and reliable as a flip of a coin! But then again, he may have been believing the words of Pornthip Rojanasunand.

Pronthip has been for a very long time the nationwide esteemed forensic expert, educating the country about the importance of scientific evidence and a nearly ubiquitous appearance in any media coverage of murder and other crime cases. However, she has been defending the GT200 with her continuous faith in the bogus device and insisting to still use it, even after the failed tests - killing off every credibility she had as a forensic scientist. (And to answer BP's question in his post whether or not Pornthip has less media appearances these days: yes, definitely!)

It was just a matter of time when this issue of the bogus GT200 would pop up again as nothing really happened after the official government tests and despite the continuous investigation against the manufacturer by the BBC. Apart from the usual questions surrounding nebulous army procurements - this lot of about 1,000 plastic dowsing rods has cost somewhere between 700m - 800m Baht ($221m - $252m), while the real cost for it has been hardly 1000 Baht ($30) a piece - this also raises the questions about whether or not the Thai armed forces (at that time under the command of General Anupong Paochinda) will file charges against the fraudulent manufacturer.

Prayuth has thrown that responsibility to the government, while he should be reminded that he is responsible for the well-being of the soldiers that are apparently still using the bogus GT200 to detect bombs. Whether or not the army chief  is also ready to fully convince the public of the effectiveness of this dowsing rod by personally using one in real-life circumstances has not been reported.

*What wonders me is that the Bangkok Post's military correspondent Wassana Nanuam failed to mention the South's 4th Region Army's non-usage of the GT200 and actually wrote the complete opposite...?

Saksith Saiyasombut is a Thai blogger and journalist currently based in Hamburg, Germany. He can be followed on Twitter @Saksith and also on his public Facebook page here.