Leadership: Defense Budget Washed Away


November 19, 2011: Thailand is cutting its annual defense budget, currently $5.4 billion, in response to flood damage that will likely exceed the total defense spending for the year. This is after annual defense spending more than doubled in the last five years. In 2006, $2.4 billion was spent on defense. Several years of military rule caused the increases, but with a civilian government back in power, and flood damage to be repaired, something has to give.

The only urgent defense threats to Thailand are some Islamic terrorism in the southernmost three provinces (containing about three percent of the population) and a border dispute with Cambodia. This was never a big threat, as Cambodia has a much smaller military. Moreover the dispute is now largely settled.

The generals are in no position to argue. The generals, royalists and urban elites staged a coup in 2006, and found that they could not make a minority government work. Even a rigged election didn't help. The current elected government will use the flood as an excuse to cut some of the budget increases the generals gave themselves when the military was running things.



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