The Thai government has proposed a 2021 defence budget of THB223.4 billion (USD7.2 billion). Budgetary documents show that the figure represents a decline of 3.6% against the original 2020 military expenditure of THB231.7 billion.
The documents indicated that the decline is linked to economic constraints stemming from Covid-19.
Cuts in Thailand’s defence budget in 2020 – a response to Covid-19 - have hit programmes including the procurement of additional Stryker ICVs (pictured) from the United States. (US Army)
In an initial reading of the 2021 budget bill in Parliament on 1 July, Thai Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha – who is also the country’s defence minister – said the new defence expenditure would support the modernisation of the Royal Thai Armed Forces.
“We have not received a lot of funds lately to buy new weapons and other military hardware [and] about 70% to 80% of existing [equipment] is old and needs to be replaced,” Prayut told Parliament.
“Our mission is to protect the country’s sovereignty along the borders, and we have to be prepared for any new skirmishes or conflict, no matter if they happen or not.”
The 2021 budget bill will have several readings in Parliament before being submitted to the Senate for approval. Thailand’s fiscal year starts in October.
The defence budget for 2021 was proposed about two months after the government cut the original 2020 military expenditure down to THB213.7 billion, with funding reappropriated in support of a national Covid-19 stimulus package.
The 2020 cuts are expected to affect several procurement projects.