Coronavirus: Thai army slashes budgets amid backlash over armament procurement

BANGKOK - Thailand's armed forces have made budget cuts and suspended artillery purchases, as millions of Thais suffering from the adverse economic impact of the coronavirus outbreak await cash handouts from the government.

The Thai army was the latest branch of the armed forces to slash its 2020 budget on Wednesday (April 22) by about 10 billion baht (S$441 million), out of the total of 18 billion baht cut by the Defence Ministry.

It also halved its planned 900 million baht procurement of over 100 Stryker armoured infantry carriers from the United States and suspended purchases of other artillery, army spokesman Winthai Suvaree told a press briefing.

"It's a high figure compared to other ministries. All the non-committal budgets have been cut," said Colonel Winthai Suvaree.

The government has asked each ministry to cut its non-urgent and non-committal spending by at least 10 per cent.

The army's announcement came amid a huge backlash against its plan to continue to procure more armaments. A document signed on Mondya to procure 50 armoured vehicles and related technical services worth 4.5 billion baht was found on the website of the procurement unit of the army's Ordnance Department.

The Thai-language hashtag, whose mild translation to "armoured vehicle your father" belies its expletive connotations, has been the country's top trending hashtag on Twitter since late on Tuesday, with over 600,000 tweets in less than 24 hours.