Defence spokesman defends military budget

The Thai military has defended its spending of about 1 trillion baht, or 7% of the fiscal budget, over the past five years and claimed it had not increased substantially.

Speaking at length to the media today about defence budgets since the coup, Defence Ministry spokesman Lt-Gen Kongcheep Tantravanich also insisted that the budgeting process of military spending was transparent and endorsed by the National Legislative Assembly and that the amount of the increases each fiscal year was in line with those of the national budget and had increased every year to about three trillion baht this fiscal year.

He pointed out that defence budgets of elected administrations from 1993 to 1998 averaged about 12.7 percent of the entire fiscal budget compared to about seven percent under the junta’s regime.

Lt-Gen Kongcheep’s defence of military budgets was intended to counter accusations by the pro-Thaksin parties, Pheu Thai in particular, that their budgets under the NCPO’s rule were too high and some spending was unnecessary.  Pheu Thai election candidates have said they will cut the military budget if they win the general election.

Compared with the defence budgets of 20 other countries in the region, Lt-Gen Kongcheep claimed that Singapore came first, with its defence budget accounting for 3.3 percent of the GDP compared to Thailand’s 1.4 percent of the GDP, putting Thailand in the 6th place.

He explained that the scope of responsibilities of the Thai military included non-military affairs such as crackdowns on illegal logging and land encroachment, illegal fishing and contraband smuggling as well as public disaster relief operations. He also claimed that Thailand’s geographic location necessitated increased spending.

On arms procurement, the spokesman explained that the military assesses perceived risks every 5-10 years and how best to cope with such threats based on acceptable risks. “For instance, our planes must be ready for operations all the time.  But we are now facing many shortages and they need to be replenished,” he said, adding “there is nothing fishy or hidden about military budgets. If we have less budget, we will just use krathin trees to build a fence.  But if we have more budget, we can build a barbed wire fence or a concrete wall and then equip it with a CCTV system.  Soldiers are like fences and we reinforce the fence to protect national interests.”


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