Covid fight sees army shift focus

Covid fight sees army shift focus

Domestic procurement a priority

Military spending will shift from procuring weapons from overseas to sourcing domestic products due to budgetary pressures caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.

Army spokesman Gen Santipong Thammapiya said the virus outbreak has forced the army to re-evaluate its spending plan as in the 2021 fiscal year much of its budget has been spent in support of the Covid-19 containment effort.

"Its policy also calls for the cancellation or scaling down of high-priced weapon-purchase schemes from overseas and buying more local products. Overall, we will prioritise maintaining our weapons and equipment and prolonging their use," he said.

Gen Santipong, who is also the army's chief-of-staff, was speaking about the army's three-year development plan (Oct 2020-Oct 2023) and its spending and performance in the 2021 fiscal year which ended on Sept 30.

He said the army has also stepped up measures to protect junior officers from unfair treatment and support their career opportunities while promoting voluntary military service and seeking to replace some personnel with civilians.

Gen Santipong said the army has made its best effort to mitigate the impact caused by natural disasters and the ongoing pandemic while still maintaining security, peace and order in the region.

Col Sirichan Ngathong, deputy army spokeswoman, said spending plans were adjusted to support disease control efforts and stimulate the grassroots economy in the last fiscal year.

She said the spending plan for the current fiscal year prioritises personnel welfare and maintenance of weapons and equipment to prolong their service years.

For fiscal 2022, the military has been allocated 97.8 billion baht, a decrease of 8 billion baht, or 7.64%, from the previous year.

It had requested 112 billion baht in funding.

Meanwhile, the navy and the air force have also reportedly deferred procurement schemes and resorted to maintenance projects as their funds have also been trimmed to save money for financing the fight against Covid-19.

The navy is said to have placed new vessel procurement on hold while the air force reportedly plans to merge Squadron 102 and Squadron 103 to save costs following the decommissioning of several F-16 ADF aircraft.

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