BANGKOK — The Ministry of Defense on Friday said soldiers entered the Parliament and confiscated documents related to military spending because they were considered sensitive information.
The documents were seized without any explanation while a House Committee was discussing the defense budget, opposition lawmakers said. Defense ministry spokesman Kongcheep Tantravanich said the armed forces had to protect the papers for the sake of national security.
“It’s their responsibility under security protocols,” Maj. Gen. Kongcheep said. “We have no intention of hiding information or hindering the work of the committee as accused by some commissioners.”
The spokesman said the ministry respects the power of the legislative branch and has no policy of concealing information from the civilian lawmakers.
“The ministry is committed to the democratic process and we consider it as a duty,” Kongcheep said.
Pheu Thai MP Woravat Auapinyakul said he was presented with documents bearing classification markings for consideration while a representative from the defense ministry testified before the House Committee, which sought to slash defense spending.
However, the papers were soon confiscated by a military officer, even before the official finished talking, he said.
“The information is essential and should not be treated as a secret,” Worawat said. “It’s the right of the committee under the constitution to see such information, but we were also blocked by the committee’s chairman to recall them. This is considered to be an obstacle to our duty.”
Move Forward MP Bencha Saengchantra echoed his concerns, saying that the current information provided by the defense ministry was too little for any decisions to be made.
“I feel that the defense budget is untouchable,” Bencha said. “They said it’s a secret. I have to sign every time to see or return the documents. They asked us to return them quickly so we had no time to go through them.”
The committee is seeking to slash each ministry’s spending by 10 percent and return the funds to the central government budget, which will be used for coronavirus relief efforts.
At least 88 billion baht is expected to be collected, including a sum of 17 billion baht from the defense ministry.