The government said on Wednesday that a budget has to be set aside to buy new weapons for the military because 80 per cent of the existing ones are getting old.
Government spokesperson, Naruemon Pinyosinwat, said the outdated weapons have to be replaced as they are getting too costly to maintain.
The government proposed last week a defence budget worth 223.4 billion baht for the 2021 fiscal year.
This would represent a decrease of 3.6 per cent in comparison to the budget of 231.7 billion baht that was set aside for fiscal 2020.
The total proposed budget for fiscal 2021 was set at 3.3 trillion baht.
Naruemon said that military operations to protect the Southern border required more than 10,000 personnel to protect the area.
She said the presence of the military has been suppressing various security threats in the troubled South.
“I would like to say thank you to the opposition that has expressed their concern over the spending of the fiscal 2021 budget,” she said.
“However, the government is asking for an understanding that our men who are soldiers require modern military equipment to prevent losses,” she added.
Naruemon is referring to the opposition’s call for the country’s armed forces to stop buying weapons, including submarines, while people are suffering from economic hardship.
They said the budget should be used to help SMEs and people who have lost their jobs. It should also be used to stimulate the economy and create preventive measures against a resurgence of the coronavirus.
Sudarat Keyuraphan, the chief strategist at Pheu Thai party, said on Wednesday that the 40 billion baht proposal to buy new weapons and increase the size of the three-arm forces could be used to help 8.3 million unemployed people instead.
She said the three-arm forces still have leftover funds worth 117 billion baht for increasing the size of their forces between 2018 and 2023.
However, they are still asking for 30 billion baht more to expand the armed forces and another 10 billion baht to procure and maintain weapons.
Sudarat said that the 40 billion baht could be used to hire farmers to grow crops that could improve the condition of the soil and to fund subsidies for farmers to use fewer chemical products on their crops.
This would pave the way for more sustainable and safe products which could increase the income of at least 3 million farmers.
She said the armed forces would understand if the government told them that the money would be used to help Thai citizens instead.