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Nation Analysis: High defense spending at expense of education, welfare

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THE CONTROVERSIAL submarine deal has sparked public debate about the way the Thai Defense Ministry spends tax money on military hardware and other national-security projects. Many question whether such projects should take priority over education, public healthcare or improving the lives of the country’s millions of poor.

Since the coup in 2014, the budget allocated to the Defense Ministry has increased substantially. For the fiscal 2015 national budget, the first fully controlled by the junta, the ministry’s budget jumped to192.9 billion baht from 184.7 billion baht the year before. The defense budget was again raised substantially to 203.7 billion baht in fiscal 2016 and 221.7 billion for 2017.

Somchai Jitsuchon, research director at the Thailand Research Development Institute, says the priority should be solving the wide income gap between the rich and poor. Over the past three years, the junta-backed government has not put enough effort or resources into dealing with this issue, he notes.

According to the National Economic and Social Development Board, income disparity remains severe in Thailand. The top 10 per cent of earners got 35 per cent of total income in 2015, while the bottom 10 per cent got only 1.58 per cent. Meanwhile, the top 10 per cent own 60 percent of the country’s land while the bottom 40 per cent own only 1.2 per cent.

Low-income groups also cannot access high-quality education or healthcare services.

“Priority should be given to creating life opportunities for the poor,”Somchai says.

The Education Ministry often gets the biggest share of the annual budget, but highly talented teachers are hard to find, as most of them teach at elite schools in Bangkok. Moreover, a typical school does not have adequate educational materials to facilitate effective learning, so pupils end up in rote learning, which delivers poor performance in math and science and impairs a student’s ability to create, analyze and think.

Supachai Panitchpakdi, former chief of the World Trade Organisation, says Thailand should gain regional bargaining power by offering assistance to neighbouring countries. He praises the Neighbouring Countries Development Cooperation Agency, which over the past 12 years has granted soft loans to support infrastructure projects in seven countries.

He is concerned that Thailand and, even more so, richer countries are preoccupied with an arms race.

Sakon Waran-yuwattana, dean of Thammasat University’s faculty of economics, says he is worried about the benefits of arms purchases, as such hardware bought in the past at high cost was often unusable. “This is because there is no independent auditor supervising or evaluating the outcomes of [defense] spending. Other ministries also face a similar issue,” he laments.

Auditor-General Pisit Leelavachiropas, however, has tried to defend the purchase of a Chinese-made submarine, saying the Chinese government ‘guarantees’ that it will function properly.

Other key concerns are future obligations made by the Defense Ministry. For example, under the 2017 fiscal budget, total future obligations are now 105.5 billion baht, including the 13.5-billion submarine deal, on which instalments will be paid until 2023. The first payment of 700million is to be made this fiscal year.

The junta is now drafting the fiscal 2018 national budget, with initial plans to allocate 222.4 billion baht to the Defense Ministry, accounting for 7.7 per cent of the total 2.9-trillion baht government outlay.

— The Nation

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Thailand

PM Prayut postponing Covid‐19 vaccination citing paperwork issues

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PM Prayut postponing Covid‐19 vaccination citing paperwork issues | The Thaiger

Thailand’s PM Prayut Chan-o-cha is postponing his inaugural Covid‐19 vaccination citing paperwork issues with the AstraZeneca vaccine shipment. According to Khaosod English, the vaccine shipment was sent to Thailand last Wednesday from South Korea, but was missing the additional required paperwork.

Prayut was supposed to receive the vaccine tomorrow, but the highly‐publicised event will not be happening. According to Khaosod English, an official at the Secretariat of the Prime Minister has also confirmed the news of the postponement without citing a reason.

Although the Sinovac vaccine is also being administered in Thailand, healthcare officials say Prayut is too old to receive it as its age limit is 60. Prayut is 66 years old, which is well over the oldest age that can receive the vaccine.

The Sinovac vaccine drive is set to commence on Monday, 2 weeks behind schedule. Those frontline health workers, hospitality workers and vulnerable groups will receive the vaccines first.

Meanwhile, Phuket is waiting for the green lightto start administering vaccines and has already held a vaccine administration rehearsal overseen by Phuket Vice Governor Pichet Panapong along with other health officials.

Pichet says the first vaccine round of 4,000 doses should arrive early in March, with the 2nd and 3rd set of doses, 16,000 and 48,000 respectively, to arrive in April and May.

The government pandemic center reported 72 new confirmed infections on Friday, after first only reporting 45 new cases. 37 of those cases were locally-transmitted, and one 6 year old Thai girl returning from the UK was found to have tested positive for the virus. Samut Sakhon, again, reported over half of the new cases yesterday, as it remains the epicentre of Thailand’s second wave of the coronavirus outbreak.

The total virus tally in Thailand sits at 25,764, with 83 fatalities. The Centre for Covid-19 Situation Administration has not yet announced the amount of new cases for today.

There is no word yet on when PM Prayut will be rescheduled to receive the AstraZeneca vaccine.

SOURCE: Khaosod English

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Thailand News Today | Week In Review | February 26

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Thailand News Today | Week In Review | February 26 | The Thaiger

Thailand News Today usually covers five days of the news week. This week only four days as today (Friday) is a public holiday. Now we have a weekend edition which goes over the biggest, or best stories, from the past week. Out every Saturday afternoon, catch up with Jett and Tim’s major Thai news stories. Welcome to the Thailand News Today Week in Review. Tim and Jett give you a quick recap of the main news stories.

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45 new cases today, 37 local‐Covid‐19‐Update

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45 new cases today, 37 local‐Covid‐19‐Update | The Thaiger

Thailand reports 45 new cases of Covid-19cases today, with 37 infections being locally-transmitted. 8 of those infections were imported, raising the total amount of infections since the pandemic began to 25,809.

The Department of Disease Control reports that 32 cases were confirmed at hospitals with 5 confirmed through active case finding in communities.

Samut Sakhon province, the 2nd wave epicentre, reported over half of the new cases at 19. 14 of those cases were confirmed at hospitals and 5 were detected in Myanmar communities. Bangkok has reported 3 new cases, Nakhon Nayok reported 5, Chai Nat 3, Nakhon Pathom 3, Saraburi 2, Prachuap Khiri Khan 1, and Samut Prakan 1.

45 new cases today, 37 local‐Covid‐19‐Update | News by The Thaiger

The 8 imported cases were those under quarantine arriving from Pakistan, Bangladesh, the UK, Germany, France, The Netherlands, and Kuwait. The case from the UK was that of a 6 year old Thai schoolgirl.

Globally, Covid-19 cases rose by 444,466 over the past day to 113.54 million. The worldwide death toll increased by 10,552 to 2.52 million. The United States still has the most cases at 29.5 million, with the most deaths at 520,785.

SOURCE: Bangkok Post

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