Trouble With My Plane Justifies Arms Spending: Prayuth

Now everyone can fly? Junta chairman Prayuth Chan-ocha stretches his wings while joining a traditional southern dance Thursday in Krabi province.

KRABI — The retired general leading the military government tried turning lemons into lemonade Thursday, saying mechanical problems on his transport justified increased military spending.

Speaking hours after an engine problem forced his C-130 back to Bangkok, junta chairman Prayuth Chan-ocha said the plane was aging like other equipment owned by the armed forces that is in constant need of replacement. The air force said Friday the airplane had been in service nearly 40 years.

“The armed forces need to use a lot of money in purchasing all kinds of military hardware because they are becoming unusable,” the general told his supporters in Krabi province. “In the future, these aircraft will be used to assist the people. They aren’t only for the prime minister.”

Under the junta, the military has spent tens of billions of baht on weapons acquisitions ranging from jet fighters to submarines. Just earlier this month, the government approved 2.2 billion baht for more Chinese APCs and ammo.

Prayuth’s visit to the south was delayed by an hour and a half because of the malfunction. The junta leader made light of the situation.

“I came here out of love. Even if the plane was flying on just two propellers, I would still come here. I love everyone,” Gen. Prayuth said.

An air force spokesman said the C-130 that flew Prayuth’s delegates yesterday has been in operation since 1980.

“There was always the chance that an error could occur,” Lt. Gen. Pongsak Semachai said at a news conference.

The junta leader also lashed out at his opponents who took to social media wishing for his death.

“Some people wished that the plane would just crash. What the hell? I’m here just to see the people. Don’t wish me death,” Prayuth said. “Why do they hate me so much?”