BANGKOK – Thailand’s Military junta-appointed leaders yesterday signed off on a nearly US$124 million budget hike for defence spending, while funds for education and infrastructure were pared back.
The army seized power from the civilian government in 2014, saying it had to act to end bloody street protests and rampant corruption.
The army, navy and air force will receive a 2 per cent budget increase, taking next year’s spending to 210.7 billion baht (S$8.2 billion), according to the Budget endorsed by the hand-picked National Legislative Assembly.
The Budget comes into effect next month and runs until September next year.
It is the third straight year of increases in state spending for defence since the coup.
Thailand’s royalist military has for decades been at the centre of politics, battering down the country’s nascent democratic movements.
Each coup has broadly been followed by a handsome defence budget hike, while the civilian leaders who have governed intermittently have also spent lavishly on the powerful military.
The budget for education was given a 4.7 per cent haircut to 493 billion baht while that for transport was cut by two-thirds to 63.5 billion baht.
“This Budget will be spent based on laws and rules to maintain the country’s fiscal discipline,” Deputy Prime Minister Wisanu Krea-Ngam said in televised comments at the end of the vote, promising that the Budget allocation had been carefully considered.
“Perhaps the rise does not appear to be breathtaking but the amount of spending is remarkable,” said Mr Paul Chambers, a Thailand-based expert on the military, adding that it was unclear how the spending had been justified.
AFP – AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE
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