11 July 2024

Parliament has agreed to establish a House standing committee, as proposed by the Move Forward party, to study the possibility of transferring businesses presently controlled by the military to the people.

The proposal was made by Bencha Saengchan, a Move Forward party-list MP, during the parliamentary session yesterday. She said that the billions of baht the military earns from its commercial interests, which currently go into military accounts, should be reassigned to benefit the country.

Without mentioning names, Bencha informed the chamber that several military generals have accumulated personal fortunes of up to Bt800 million during their time in military service. For a long time, the public has wondered about the generals’ sources of money during their time in the military.

A few days ago, a Defence Ministry spokesman said in an interview that the number of Thai generals has exceeded 2,000, with 700 of them having no clear service assignment. They are, however, being appointed to positions on the boards of state enterprises and public companies, which has earned them huge sums of money. Their service salaries are also a significant cost to the taxpayer, amounting to approximately Bt425 million per month, or a minimum of Bt5.1 billion per year.

Bencha claimed that there are plenty of sources of money and assets controlled by the military, including so-called Ratchaphatsadu or state owned land. The military controls almost 1.5 million hectares of such land, which is leased out for the construction of accommodation for its personnel.

Furthermore, the military has control over 150 petrol stations nationwide, 74 golf courses and other businesses, including radio and television stations and energy-related enterprises, which generate billions of baht in income for the military each year.

“The public has never been informed about the exact amount of income the military earns from such businesses. It is time to start studying the accounts and find ways to reassign the income to the country. Therefore, my party proposes the setting up of a House standing committee to study these matters,” she said.