Pheu Thai digs into govt 'classified funds'

Pheu Thai digs into govt 'classified funds'

The main opposition Pheu Thai Party has assigned more than a dozen members to take charge of budget scrutiny, zeroing in on "classified" funds allocated to various ministries.

Yutthapong Charassathien, deputy leader of the party, said Pheu Thai has named 15 members, including himself, to sit on the budget scrutiny panel.

They are expected to join other parties in reviewing the budget in detail after the budget bill passed its first reading in the Lower House on Wednesday. Pheu Thai voted not to accept the bill.

Finance Minister Arkhom Termpittayapaisith was yesterday appointed chairman of a 72-member scrutiny committee which will examine the 3.1-trillion-baht budget spending plan for the 2022 fiscal year.

Mr Yutthapong said the panel will start work today and run until Aug 5.

The Maha Sarakham MP said he would look specifically into so-called classified funds allocated to ministries, large chunks of which are held by the Defence Ministry.

He insisted the budget was in crisis because the country's annual revenue has dropped to 2.4 trillion baht largely on account of the Covid-19 pandemic, forcing the government to borrow 700 billion baht to make up for the shortfall.

Mr Yutthapong said the classified funds -- from which the army were to be given 290 million baht, the navy 62 million baht, the air force 30 million baht, the defence permanent secretary's office 32 million baht, the Royal Thai Armed Forces Headquarters 55 million baht -- were not fleshed out.

Other agencies also have access to a separate portion of classified funds worth 558 million baht, according to the MP.

He said classified funds valued at 60 million baht were designated for the Prime Minister's Secretariat Office, the National Intelligence Agency (232 million baht), the Office of the National Security Council (50 million baht) and the Southern Border Provinces Administrative Centre (20 million baht).

Mr Yutthapong said even the Foreign Affairs Ministry and the Labour Ministry have similar funds at their disposal.

He said his other priority was to vet the weapons procurement budget. Since the government is running a deficit budget which requires borrowing to cover, one can assume that some parts of the loan may be diverted to buying weapons, according to the MP.

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