Thai MPs give mil­i­tary a US$124m bud­get in­crease

The Myanmar Times - - Business | International -

THAI­LAND’S junta-ap­pointed law­mak­ers have 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 was forced to act to end bloody street protests and ram­pant cor­rup­tion.

The army, navy and air force will re­ceive a 2 per­cent raise tak­ing next year’s spend­ing to 210.7 bil­lion baht (nearly $6.1 bil­lion), ac­cord­ing to the bud­get en­dorsed by the hand-picked Na­tional Leg­isla­tive Assem­bly.

The bud­get comes into ef­fect next month and runs un­til Septem­ber 2017. It is the third straight year of rises 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 demo­cratic move­ments.

Each coup has broadly been fol­lowed by a hand­some bud­get hike, while the civil­ian lead­ers who have gov­erned in­ter­mit­tently have also lav­ished cash on the pow­er­ful mil­i­tary hop­ing to curry favour.

The bud­get for ed­u­ca­tion was given a 4.7pc hair­cut to 493 bil­lion baht ($14.1 bil­lion) and trans­port was cut by two-thirds from 136 bil­lion baht to 63.5 bil­lion.

Ex­perts say the bud­get fol­lows a pat­tern that has seen de­fence spend­ing creep up from around $5.7 bil­lion a year be­fore the coup.

“Per­haps the rise does not ap­pear to be breath­tak­ing but the amount of spend­ing is re­mark­able – re­ally more than ever be­fore,” said Paul Cham­bers, a Thai­land-based ex­pert on the mil­i­tary, adding it was un­clear how the spend­ing had been jus­ti­fied.

Af­ter years of im­pres­sive growth, Thai­land’s econ­omy is fal­ter­ing, mired in high house­hold debt and stut­ter­ing ex­ports.

The army’s in­flu­ence in Thai pol­i­tics has been em­bed­ded in a new con­sti­tu­tion writ­ten by junta ap­pointees.

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