BANGKOK — Opposition MPs on Wednesday said the massive defense spending should be slashed and priority given to the economy revival during the coronavirus pandemic.
But PM Prayut Chan-ocha, who also serves as defense minister, said the 223.4 billion baht budget is needed to defend the country’s sovereignty. The proposed budget is the fourth highest among the ministries.
“We understand the concerns of MPs,” Prayut told the Parliament. “I, as defence minister, will do my best. Please understand us, too.”
The premier added that some 70 to 80 per cent of the existing military hardwares are outdated and need to be replaced in order to maintain fighting capability.
“Many have children or relations who are soldiers,” Prayut said. “If they do not have advanced weapons to defend themselves … it may lead to their loss.”
Move Forward party list MP Picharn Chaowapatanawong asked why some of the military procurement are not delayed despite financial hardship caused by the coronavirus. He cited the budget for an military aircraft maintenance center as an example.
Picharn also criticized the army’s ownership and operations of lucrative businesses such as golf courses, hotels, petrol stations, horse racing track and boxing stadium. He urged the military to disclose financial details of these businesses and their earnings.