Top brass get pass on sub inquisition
Pheu Thai fury at budget-panel dodge
The opposition Pheu Thai Party yesterday slammed the government for allowing armed force leaders to skip being grilled by the House committee vetting the budget bill for the fiscal year 2022.
The panel wants to question them over next year's defence budget and the planned controversial purchase of two submarines from China.
Pheu Thai Party deputy leader Yuttapong Charasathien, in his capacity as spokesman for the House committee, said the panel is due to begin deliberating the more than 200-billion-baht defence budget on Monday.
The funds requested for financing the planned procurement of the two Chinese-made submarines by the navy are a part of this substantial defence budget, he said.
But the leaders of the armed forces simply refused to attend the hearing, he said.
The previous day when the proposed budget for the armed forces was reviewed by the Senate, all these leaders presented themselves before the Senate to defend their proposed budgets, he said.
"How on earth could the government be this cruel to its people? It simply presses on with buying submarines while many people are hungry and dying from infection? I have to let taxpayers, the real owners of the state budget, know about this," he said.
To not assign anyone from the armed forces to appear before the House committee and answer questions that may be asked over their requested budgets is improper and may spark criticism over transparency in the budget bill deliberation, he said.
When the sub-committees reviewed these proposed budgets previously, all these senior military officers showed up to defend their budgets, so what is the reasoning for their not coming to the House committee meeting, he asked.
According to the opposition, Wirach Ratanasate, the chief government whip and chairman of the House committee, said concern over the worsening Covid-19 situation justified the absence of these officers from attending the upcoming budget bill deliberation.
Around 22.5 billion baht in the new budget is proposed to be set aside for funding the navy's purchase of the two Chinese-made submarines, which initially was planned to be carried out last year.