Thai junta hikes security and defense budget by 20% to $10 billion

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Thai army children’s day (Photo by Reuters)

The Thai junta unveiled a new $10-billion defense and security budget for the 2019 fiscal year on June 7 in what Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha called an “investment in the future” of the country. The budget consists of around $7 billion for the defense ministry, up 4.2 per cent over the 2018 budget, and an extra allocation of around $3 billion to maintain “internal peace and order,” prevent transnational crimes and cyberattacks, ending the violence in the restive South, tackling the problems of human trafficking, dealing with migrant workers, as well as protect the Thai monarchy.

The budget was approved on the same day in the National Legislative Assembly, whose members in their majority are appointed by the junta. It may be the last military-approved budget before a promised return to elections early next year.

The significant increase of the last budget by a junta in Thailand follows the pattern of each of the many periodic military regimes the country has experienced in the past as it may be the final opportunity to allocate extra funds to the armed forces.

Prayut emphasised that the spending plans are in line with a 20-year national strategy laid out last year that is legally binding for future administrations to follow. The “Thailand-20-year-national-strategy (2017-2036)” is focusing on structural reform in Thailand, apart from national security also on enhancing competitiveness, development and empowerment of human capital, reducing social inequality, steering towards a green economy and making public administration more efficient.

However, critics remarked that while the defense and security budget has been hiked significantly, the budget for competitiveness building – which includes science, research and digital economy – has been cut by almost 15 per cent and human resources development – which includes education – by 2.6 per cent.

At the same time, the 2019 budget for public health remains nearly unchanged at just $4.2 billion, less than half of the security and defense budget even though there are no new threats to Thailand. Furthermore, the budget for the public administration – including ministries and public agencies – has been hiked by almost seven per cent to a whopping $26 billion despite the 20-year strategy seeking to reduce costs and increase efficiency of the public sector.

Critics further said the junta has been opaque in its financial dealings and failed to address rampant corruption despite vowing to do so. Pichai Naripthaphan, a former energy and deputy finance minister in the previous civilian administration, said spending has risen dramatically since 2006, the year of the previous coup.

“If Thailand wants to develop the country, the defense ministry budget must be cut in order that money could be spent on infrastructure projects, which are more important [than acquiring military hardware],” he said.

 

 

 

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Reading Time: 2 minutes

Thai army children’s day (Photo by Reuters)

The Thai junta unveiled a new $10-billion defense and security budget for the 2019 fiscal year on June 7 in what Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha called an “investment in the future” of the country. The budget consists of around $7 billion for the defense ministry, up 4.2 per cent over the 2018 budget, and an extra allocation of around $3 billion to maintain “internal peace and order,” prevent transnational crimes and cyberattacks, ending the violence in the restive South, tackling the problems of human trafficking, dealing with migrant workers, as well as protect the Thai monarchy.

Reading Time: 2 minutes

Thai army children’s day (Photo by Reuters)

The Thai junta unveiled a new $10-billion defense and security budget for the 2019 fiscal year on June 7 in what Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha called an “investment in the future” of the country. The budget consists of around $7 billion for the defense ministry, up 4.2 per cent over the 2018 budget, and an extra allocation of around $3 billion to maintain “internal peace and order,” prevent transnational crimes and cyberattacks, ending the violence in the restive South, tackling the problems of human trafficking, dealing with migrant workers, as well as protect the Thai monarchy.

The budget was approved on the same day in the National Legislative Assembly, whose members in their majority are appointed by the junta. It may be the last military-approved budget before a promised return to elections early next year.

The significant increase of the last budget by a junta in Thailand follows the pattern of each of the many periodic military regimes the country has experienced in the past as it may be the final opportunity to allocate extra funds to the armed forces.

Prayut emphasised that the spending plans are in line with a 20-year national strategy laid out last year that is legally binding for future administrations to follow. The “Thailand-20-year-national-strategy (2017-2036)” is focusing on structural reform in Thailand, apart from national security also on enhancing competitiveness, development and empowerment of human capital, reducing social inequality, steering towards a green economy and making public administration more efficient.

However, critics remarked that while the defense and security budget has been hiked significantly, the budget for competitiveness building – which includes science, research and digital economy – has been cut by almost 15 per cent and human resources development – which includes education – by 2.6 per cent.

At the same time, the 2019 budget for public health remains nearly unchanged at just $4.2 billion, less than half of the security and defense budget even though there are no new threats to Thailand. Furthermore, the budget for the public administration – including ministries and public agencies – has been hiked by almost seven per cent to a whopping $26 billion despite the 20-year strategy seeking to reduce costs and increase efficiency of the public sector.

Critics further said the junta has been opaque in its financial dealings and failed to address rampant corruption despite vowing to do so. Pichai Naripthaphan, a former energy and deputy finance minister in the previous civilian administration, said spending has risen dramatically since 2006, the year of the previous coup.

“If Thailand wants to develop the country, the defense ministry budget must be cut in order that money could be spent on infrastructure projects, which are more important [than acquiring military hardware],” he said.

 

 

 

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