Thailand Cuts Defense Budget, Suspends Military Acquisition Projects

Thailand becomes the latest defense spending domino to fall in Asia as governments look to shift funding priorities toward novel coronavirus (COVID-19) economic and civil relief packages. With Thailand’s economy currently expected to shrink in 2020 by around 5.3 percent, the Thai government under Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha plans to reappropriate money removed from the defense earmark toward a broader THB1.9 trillion ($58.57 billion) stimulus package aimed at relieving immediate pressures brought on by the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The cuts to the defense earmark for 2020 amount to THB18 billion ($555 million), knocking the overall budget down from the original outlay of THB231.7 billion ($7.14 billion) to THB213.7 billion ($6.59 billion), an overall reduction of about 7.8 percent.

Suspended military procurement programs include two T-50 Golden Eagle lead-in fighter trainers (LIFTs) from Korea Aerospace Industries (KAI), and plans for ordering a second and third Chinese Type 041 diesel-electric attack submarine (Yuan class in the People’s Liberation Army Navy).   Plus, a planned order for 100 M1126 Stryker 8×8 infantry combat vehicles (ICVs)  was halved and some artillery programs for the Thai Army were frozen.

With respect to the three major service branches of the armed forces, the Thai Army cut its budget by 56 percent, the Navy by 33 percent, and the Air Force by 23 percent.

The cuts come at a time of rising public distrust of the military.

While overall case numbers of coronavirus infections remain low in Thailand at under 3,000 persons, the emergency lockdowns imposed last month (which involve enforcement of curfews by the military) have resulted in ballooning unemployment, and the short-term effect on the country’s vital tourism industry is likely to prove devastating.

Image – Nicolas Raymond


About Daniel Darling

Dan Darling is Forecast International’s director of military and defense markets. In this role, Dan oversees a team of analysts tasked with covering everything from budgeting to weapons systems to defense electronics and military aerospace. Additionally, for over 17 years Dan has, at various times, authored the International Military Markets reports for Europe, Eurasia, the Middle East and the Asia-Pacific region. Dan's work has been cited in Defense News, Real Clear Defense, Asian Military Review, Al Jazeera, and Financial Express, among others, and he has also contributed commentary to The Diplomat, The National Interest and World Politics Review. He has been quoted in Arabian Business, the Financial Times, Flight International, The New York Times, Bloomberg and National Defense Magazine. In addition, Dan has made guest appearances on the online radio show Midrats and on The Media Line, as well as The Red Line Podcast, plus media appearances on France 24 and World Is One News (WION).

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