Thai PM’s purse power play: Srettha urges military to trade arms for aid in 2024

Picture courtesy of MRG Online

Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin urged the military to postpone their plans to procure weapons for 2024 in a bid to divert funds towards aiding the nation’s needy, according to insiders. Defence Minister Sutin Klunsang and Prommin Lertsuridej, the Prime Minister’s Secretary-General, have been tasked with negotiating the delay with the military leaders.

The prime minister wishes to utilise the budget for crucial initiatives to support the populace. Any previously approved budgets will not be altered, the sources stated.

The Royal Thai Air Force’s (RTAF) newly appointed commander, ACM Phanphakdee Phatthanakul, confirmed that the government requested the military to prioritise addressing natural disasters such as floods, forest fires, and haze issues.

He denied reports that the RTAF planned to purchase three Gripen jet fighters from Sweden for Wing 7 in Surat Thani, following the US’s refusal to sell its F-35A fighter jets. The RTAF had previously purchased a dozen Gripen fighters, with one lost in a crash. Each Gripen fighter aircraft costs approximately 2 billion baht, a RTAF source stated.

ACM Phanphakdee confirmed that due to the country’s economic climate, the RTAF won’t seek to purchase jet fighters in the 2024 fiscal year. However, they will consider procuring new jet fighters in the following fiscal year, with a working panel being established to review the matter.

It remains uncertain whether the jet fighters to be procured in the 2025 fiscal year will be Gripen or F-16, he noted.

F-16 replacement

ACM Phanphakdee stated that the RTAF needs to eventually replace its ageing fleet of F-16 fighters stationed at Wing 1 in Nakhon Ratchasima, which will progressively be decommissioned between 2028 and 2031.

The RTAF will introduce the procurement plan in the 2025 fiscal year and will ensure taxpayers’ money will be used in the country’s best interest and for national defence purposes, the RTAF commander said.

He further revealed that the RTAF is planning to retrofit its BT-67 utility aircraft with a water tank to tackle forest fires and drought during the dry season. He affirmed his readiness to justify the RTAF’s budget spending to the House committee scrutinising the 2024 budget bill.

ACM Phanphakdee also mentioned that the 61 year old prime minister has insisted that any military equipment purchases from foreign countries should be paired with reciprocal purchases of Thai-made goods.

Akkaradet Wongpitakrote, a United Thai Nation (UTN) Party MP for Ratchaburi who sat on a House committee vetting budget bills for the 2020-2023 fiscal years, commended ACM Phanphakdee for his commitment to the government’s policy.

The government aims to utilise its budget towards catering to the populace as the country is grappling with several problems, primarily economic hardships involving basic necessities that impact people’s daily lives, stated Akkaradet, also the UTN spokesman.

He pointed out that the 2024 fiscal year budget was arranged by the previous administration, so the new government had to modify the 2024 fiscal budget to align with its policies. However, the new government has the flexibility to prepare the budget for the 2025 fiscal year as it deems fit.

Akkaradet suggested that the RTAF’s decision should set a precedent for the army and the navy. He praised the RTAF’s decision to reduce its spending or delay its procurement projects as commendable, Bangkok Post reported.

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Atima Homtientong

Atima is a dedicated news writer living in Bangkok. With a degree from Mahidol University, she focuses on reporting key issues and happenings around the country. In her off time, Atima enjoys writing and producing music.

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