Thai junta seeks US$10bil in new budget

Questions are being raised about Thai military leaders and their sudden increase in wealth

The Thai junta unveiled a new US$10bil (Bht 320bil) defence and security budget, in what may be its final opportunity to allocate extra funds to the armed forces before a promised return to elections early next year.

Military spending has risen since former army chief Prayut Chan-o-cha seized power from the civilian government in 2014, fitting a pattern of Thai generals generously boosting budgets following their periodic coups.

The figures, proposed to the junta-picked National Legislative Assembly for the 2019 fiscal year, represent US$7bil (Bht 224 bil) for defence, a US$1bil (Bht 32 bil) increase since the military seized power four years ago.

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In addition, the regime is planning US$3bil (Bht 96bil) in security spending to manage “new threats”, maintain “internal peace and order”, prevent transnational crimes and cyberattacks as well as protect the monarchy.

The overall national budget is US$94bil (Bht 3 tril) of which the largest chunk – US$15.3bil (Bht 480 bil) – is earmarked for the Ministry of Education.

The spending proposals are part of a 20-year national strategy laid out last year that is legally binding for future administrations to follow.

Prayut, who is now prime minister, has suggested a return to elections in February, as many Thais are weary of junta rule. — AFP

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