[Update-1] Army postpone arms purchase amid widespread criticism; will help fund government aid programs

The Royal Thai Army will postpone plans to buy 50 armored vehicles worth 4.5 billion baht to next year amid widespread criticism of its purchase, army sources said on Wednesday. The Thai government is currently struggling to fund its coronavirus aid programs.

Documents leaked on Tuesday showed that the army would buy 50 armored vehicles worth 4.515 billion baht from the United States. The document was dated April 20 and the purchase is supposed to take place this month. 

However, army sources and local media reported on Wednesday that Army Chief General Apirat Kongsompong has delayed the purchase until 2021. The army will also divert some of its budget to help fund the government’s relief programs.

It is the second time in two months that the Thai armed forces have backed down from arms purchases as Thai people question their priorities.

The Royal Thai Navy last month withdrew their plans to buy a warship worth around 6.1 billion baht following heavy criticism from opposition parties and the public.

The government is currently asking every ministry to release 10 per cent of their budget to help the government fund its economic relief packages. The latest estimation of costs for the 5,000 baht compensation scheme alone is 210 billion baht. 

Prime Minister and General Prayut Chan-ocha has reportedly written a letter to Thailand’s top 20 billionaires asking for their aid.

The Ministry of Defence has a budget of 230 billion baht for 2020.

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