Defence budget on steady rise in past three years

Ever since the military government was installed by the junta three years ago, the annual budget for the Ministry of Defence has steadily increased from 190 billion baht in 2015 fiscal year to 206,000 billion baht in 2016, 213 billion baht in 2017 and 222 billion baht in 2018.

The allocation saw the defence budget goes up by over two billion baht for each fiscal year.

In a recent interview with the Thai PBS, Defence Ministry spokesman Maj-Gen Kongcheep Tantrawanich said that the military did not just dream up a shopping list of weapons, but had mapped out a long-term defence development strategy to increase the capabilities of the armed forces to meet with security threats.

Maj-Gen Kongcheep

He stressed that arms procurement was based on the need of each of the three armed forces.

Of the budget allocated each year, about half of them are set aside for personnel development which includes mainly salaries for military personnel; 16 percent are allocated for the maintenance of internal security and the rest, between 34-35 percent are for the strengthening of defensive defence capabilities, said Maj-Gen Kongcheep.

Regarding the arms procurement, he explained that the Defence Ministry would make sure that there would be enough weaponry to sustain a limited war.  On top of that if the country’s financial health and economy is good enough to spare some more budget, he said the military would acquire new weaponry, but at small amount at a time, such as the recent procurement of VN-1 armored vehicles to replace the obsolete APCs which have been in use for four decades.

Maj-Gen Kongcheep maintained that the military took into consideration protection of national interests as the top priority in determining its arms procurement plans.

For the 2018 fiscal year’s arms procurement plans, he disclosed that the army has 14 projects worth 22 billion baht whereas the navy has nine projects worth 3.9 billion and the air force has nine projects worth 9.7 billion baht.

A breakdown of the defence budget for 2018 shows that the army will be allocated with the lion’s share of the cake, followed by the navy, the air force, the supreme command and the office of the defence permanent secretary.

It should be noted that the budget for the Internal Security Operations Command and the Southern Border Provinces Administration Centre has dropped, which is a matter of concern as the SBPAC’s main task is to deal with unrest problem in the Deep South.

A look at the “top five” ministries which are to be allocated with big chunk of budgets for 2018 fiscal year are as follows:  Education Ministry, 510,961.81 million baht; Central Fund, 394,326.06 million baht; Interior Ministry, 355,995.34 million baht; Finance Ministry, 238,356.05 million baht; and Defence Ministry, 222,436.6 million baht.

(Reporting by Panya Thiosangwan)