Tune in at 16:00 London, 19:00 UAE

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

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.

Posted by
Filed under:  General