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Live from Abu Dhabi Connect the World takes you on a journey across continents, investigating the stories that are changing our world.

Thailand's bomb detection problem

February 16th, 2010
05:32 PM ET

Fake goods in Thailand – what’s new? Well, this time it’s not a dodgy Rolex or a copied Louis Vuitton bag, it’s far more serious.

[cnn-photo-caption image= http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2010/images/02/16/bomb.blog.gi.jpg caption ="Thai bomb squad members inspect the site of a bomb attack on a bus in 2009."]

Bomb detection scanners that have been used in the terrorism ravaged south of the country for six years have just been shown to be completely useless after exhaustive tests arranged by the Thai government.

It’s pretty embarrassing for the Thai Army, which has shelled out more than 20 million dollars on the GT200 devices made by a UK manufacturer, Global Technical.

But what's even more shocking is that this same device has been sold to 30 countries around the world, according to Global Technical.

How many lives have therefore been potentially lost because police officers and soldiers are using a bomb scanner that simply doesn't work.

In the tests carried out in Thailand, a quantity of explosives was placed in one of four boxes and then a team equipped with the GT200 was assigned to find the cache.

They were only successful 20 per cent of the time. It would have been better if they had played “eeny-meany-miney-mo”.

It would all be quite comical were it not for the fact that innocent civilians are killed and wounded almost every week in southern Thailand, by bombs smuggled through the numerous road checkpoints. There government estimates there are some 700 bomb detection devices deployed in Thailand.

The manufacturer is standing by the device, issuing a statement to CNN saying:

“We are surprised and disappointed by the reported outcome of tests carried out by the Thai government. The results are completely at odds with other tests carried out by independent bodies and indeed with the experience of the large number of users of this product all over the world.”

However Global Technical and its Thai distributor Avia Satcom both declined our request for an interview.

Already a very similar looking device the AED651 made by another British firm ATSC, has been banned for export by the British government. That device has been sold in Iraq and Afghanistan, although the Iraqi army has now stopped using it.

The Thai government is now looking into the possibility of legal action against the manufacturers of the device it bought – Global Technical has made millions from sales of the GT200 to Thailand. When global sales are included the profit must be in the tens of millions.

Thailand has been using the GT200 since 2004 – with units sold to the Army, Forensic Scientists, Navy, Air Force, Narcotics Control Board and the police. Other countries thought to have purchased the units are the Philippines, Mexico and Kenya to name but a few.

The tentacles of this scandal stretch around the world – and a lot of very senior security officials’ reputations will be in tatters as a result.

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Filed under:  General
soundoff (18 Responses)
  1. Jude11

    And this took 6 years to discover? Really?

    February 16, 2010 at 7:33 pm | Reply
  2. Rob

    I'd like to see the studies that the manufacturer says are favorable.

    February 16, 2010 at 7:33 pm | Reply
  3. Savia

    I just can't believe that the company that produce this useless equipments dare to sell their products to many countries.

    It's totally crazy to risk the soldiers life with the stupid devices from England.......

    Business Ethic pls!!!!

    February 16, 2010 at 7:39 pm | Reply
  4. Windy

    I noticed one error: "There government estimates there are some 700 bomb detection devices deployed in Thailand. " I believe "there" should be "their".

    Other than that, I think this is important news, and I hope those responsible are forced to suffer severe consequences for their trickery and lack of regard for human lives.

    February 16, 2010 at 7:52 pm | Reply
  5. dave

    Get a life Windy

    February 16, 2010 at 9:07 pm | Reply
  6. Sven Gibbons

    This company doesn't need any regulations, big business always does the right thing without any oversight. Or at least that's what Rush told me.

    February 16, 2010 at 10:38 pm | Reply
  7. A bit late maybe

    Pardon?

    The Thai government bought 700 devices – supposedly in several deliveries over many months – and used them for 6 years, and just now they discover it doesn't work?

    This requires alternative, better explanations! Like:
    – Bribery, not function, was the reason to buy
    – They don't need these functional devices any more and hope for a refund now

    February 16, 2010 at 10:40 pm | Reply
  8. Daedalus

    Right on Gibbons The officers of such companies should be put in prison, bur I an sure they will get there multi-million dollar bonuses just like American Bank and Wall St. excutives

    February 17, 2010 at 12:26 am | Reply
  9. Diego from Chile

    Windy
    get a life and an education

    "there" is correct.

    peace!

    February 17, 2010 at 1:40 am | Reply
  10. The Show

    Very telling is that the Philippines bought these devices as well... stinks of corruption..

    February 17, 2010 at 2:11 am | Reply
  11. hideaki nagano

    Legal action is actualism.

    February 17, 2010 at 4:42 am | Reply
  12. H. B.

    If this equipment really was bogus, HOW could civilized people allow themselves to sell something that people would RELY on, something they already KNOW will FAIL to protect even one life, and thus allow uncounted people to die?

    Unless, of course, their loyalties were with the terrorists...

    I've noticed lots of people this callous on the Internet these days. It's incredible that any civilized society can breed such monsters.

    I'm no rosy-eyed idealist. I'm a rather stark realist. But still, we didn't used to MAKE people like that in the Western civilizations. Now we have too many to count.

    What's going ON?

    February 17, 2010 at 7:13 am | Reply
  13. Tomaz

    I think an internationally recognized authority should retest these in front of representatives of the countries that purchased them.

    If found ineffective not only should the company be sued for selling useless crap but be made liable for all casualties that could be prevented if the thing actually worked.

    February 18, 2010 at 7:08 am | Reply
  14. RRi

    The principals at the firms that did this should be going to jail. International fraud. I know the UK has laws about using the mail and telephone for dishonest, fraudulent purposes.

    My life was jeopardized by these "divining rods" or "ouji board" bomb detectors being used for years in places like Amman, Jordan and Baghdad, Iraq. I'm sure they still are - and that people think they're actually being protected.

    Jail. This is criminal misconduct.

    February 19, 2010 at 8:46 pm | Reply
  15. Sibi George

    i would like to import the latest Bomb Detection Equipment for to support my country;s Police Force./Forensic Dept. in India.

    If you know anything concerned this subjet pleae let me know by mail.

    Regards,

    SibiGeorge.

    February 23, 2010 at 6:58 am | Reply
  16. Diohuni

    latest BBC Newsnight investigation of the fake detector fraud

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lxArxIgB9oA&feature=player_embedded

    February 15, 2011 at 5:20 pm | Reply
  17. diohuni

    Please sign the following petition and ask a couple of friends to do it as well. If they do the same we can get a big number

    THANKS!!!!!!!

    http://www.change.org/petitions/demand-action-and-justice-in-fake-explosive-detectors-scandal

    March 29, 2011 at 9:39 pm | Reply

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