Military to cut back on defence budget
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Military to cut back on defence budget

The armed forces have agreed to cut back on their defence budgets as the government diverts funds to tackle Covid-19.

The commanders-in-chief were responding to calls to trim defence budgets, including those earmarked for weapons and arms procurement, so money could be cobbled together to help finance efforts to contain the spread of the disease.

Navy commander Admiral Ruechai Ruddit said on Thursday the navy was ready to hand back some of the budget allocated to the force to state coffers.

He explained the money will be sliced from several projects while other plans including construction work, which is not deemed urgent, will be put on hold. Moreover, funds for training and overseas study tours will also be cancelled, Adm Ruechai said.

However, the navy cannot halt its project to procure two submarines worth a total of 22 billion baht with a payment plan spread over seven years, including the current fiscal year.

Adm Ruechai said the purchase deals have already been made with China with strict contractual obligations. However, talks with the manufacturers may be possible to lower the payments during the Covid-19 outbreak. The budget revisions will be compiled and presented to the Defence Ministry for approval, he added.

Meanwhile, Air force chief ACM Maanat Wongwat said the force was also investigating where cuts could be made. It is expected that a programme to upgrade Alpha jets could be deferred. Overseas trips and seminars will be axed and the money will be reverted to the government.

Also, army chief Apirat Kongsompong said he was studying what procurement projects can be curtailed.

He was responding to questions as to whether the army's plan to buy armoured vehicles from the US and China will be affected. Defence Ministry spokesman Kongcheep Tantravanich said the cuts must not compromise defence capability.

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