Army chief Gen. Apirat Kongsompong today responded to outrage over massive weapons procurements under a government unable to pay promised public aid by saying he would delay the acquisitions until next year.
Apirat said the army would allocate 30% of its budget to the government’s COVID-19 relief fund outrage spread on word the army would spend THB4.5 billion (US$138.5 million) on 50 armored vehicles.
#ArmoredMyAss dominated Thai Twitter this morning and the army came under heavy fire after the public got wind of procurement plans for the weaponized personnel carriers, just the latest in many big-ticket purchases made by the military since it became the dominant political force six years ago.
The paperwork published Monday by the Royal Thai Army’s Ordnance Department, under the Foreign Military Sales program drew criticism for it and the government headed by Gen. Prayuth Chan-o-cha. Many blasted what was seen as outrageous spending of taxpayer money on arms rather than assisting people during the pandemic.
The defense budget for 2020 was approved at THB120 billion (US$3.9 billion) despite opposition attempts to cut THB22.5 billion earmarked for two submarines of dubious need. Of the army’s THB113.7 billion, 30% would be roughly 34.1 billion baht.
Last week, Prayuth, who is prime minister, said he would appeal to Thailand’s wealthiest business figures for public aid that he said the government could not afford.
Health officials today reported another 15 cases and one death, making for 2,826 infections and 49 fatalities since the outbreak began.
As of publication time, #ArmoredMyAss and #CrapGovernment were Thailand’s top hashtags on Twitter, with many saying that the government should allocate funds to ease the COVID-19 crisis.
— หอยขมซี๊ดด•ᴗ• (@pingpurple_) April 22, 2020
A comic strip represents a government hand seemingly offered in aid only to offer a high-five celebrating the THB4.5-billion acquisition.
@Avengers_CIA saw the purchase of troop carriers outfitted with weapons systems as an investment against growing public anger.
“Thai gov’t says it doesn’t have enough money to help the people, so loans are the only solution. But now the army will spend 4.52 billion baht to buy 50 armored cars,” read the caption to a retro-style graphic. “Why would you buy it when there is no war? The only purpose is to use these vehicles to kill people when they want to oust the government, like it always has been.”
รัฐบาลไทย บอกว่ามีเงินไม่พอที่จะช่วยเหลือประชาชน ต้องกู้อย่างเดียว
แต่กองทัพบกไทยกำลังจะจ่ายเงิน 4.52 พันล้านบาท เพื่อซื้อรถหุ้มเกราะ 50 คัน
คงมีเพียงแค่จุดประสงค์เดียว คือเอารถพวกนี้ออกมาเข่นฆ่าประชาชนตอนจะขับไล่รัฐบาล เหมือนในอดีต#ยานเกราะพ่องง pic.twitter.com/eX8To5YzvZ
— 𝓻𝓮𝓼𝓽 (@_1202tser_) April 22, 2020
“While we all face the covid-19 and some people in Thailand commit suicide because of lockdown and they don’t have something to eat,” Twitter user @Nanaicanhearyou wrote in English. “Thai Junta is going to spend lot of budget in order to buy armed weapon. fuck you [Thai Junta].”
“Why the fuck are you going to purchase more military armored vehicles?” another user @RachataChaichan wrote. “This is morally and unexceptionally not necessary at this crisis situation at all. This country is dying. Prayuth government need to go!!!”