12 November 2011

Flood Relief : Thailand Plans to Cut the Defense Budget in 2012

12 November 2011

The reduced budget will affect plans to maintain and buy military equipment, and the military may not be able to operate to its full capacity. (photo : kwek)

House in uproar over relief supplies

Alleged foul play in the procurement of flood relief bags continued to take centre stage in the budget debate that concluded in parliament yesterday.

Democrat Party MP for Samut Songkhram Rangsima Rodrasamee produced a bag of necessities that the government's Flood Relief Operations Command (Froc) had commissioned.

She claimed the Froc bought a five-kilogramme bag of rice of a normal grade for 195 baht when the market price was 85 baht.

Miss Rangsima said medicines in a packet from the Health Department should be free but the Froc claimed to have bought them.

Canned fish, canned vegetables and instant noodles should have been cheaper than their Froc-recorded prices if they were procured wholesale, she said.

She also alleged a woman identified only as Kratae, who was a secretary to a government MP, had tampered with the bills of rice procured for flood victims by raising the prices.

She said an exorbitant price was marked for 23,500 bags of rice delivered at Nonthaburi's Suankularb Wittayalai School, which is an emergency shelter.

Democrat list MP Boonyod Sukthinthai said mobile toilets were also overpriced.

Justice Minister Pracha Promnok, who is also the Froc's director, said relief bags were closely controlled and monitored. A report unveiled by a Froc inquiry panel led by Yanyong Puangrat, permanent secretary for commerce, said no officials had been found to be involved in the allegations of overpriced relief bags.

The Prime Minister's Office and the Department of Disaster Prevention and Mitigation, not the Froc, were responsible for buying relief bags priced at 300 baht, 500 baht and 800 baht, he said.

Pol Gen Pracha said distribution was considered based on the bag's content, cost and destination.
Places flooded for longer periods were given 800-baht bags, while recently flooded places were given smaller 300 baht bags.

"Before approval, all prices had been checked by me personally," he said.

Meanwhile, a 10% cut in the Defence Ministry's budget could compromise the military's efficiency, army chief Prayuth Chan-ocha said.

"We have no idea what to do. This is necessary. The nation is facing a disaster," Gen Prayuth said.
The money from the cut will be used for flood assistance.

For the 2012 fiscal year, the Defence Ministry has asked for 81.7 billion baht for the army, 32.9 billion baht for the navy, 32.1 billion baht for the air force, 13.2 billion baht for the Royal Thai Armed Forces Headquarters and 5.9 billion baht for the Office of the Permanent Secretary for Defence.

However, the requested budget for each agency is subject to the 10% deduction.

The reduced budget will affect plans to maintain and buy military equipment, Gen Prayuth said. The military may not be able to operate to its full capacity.

Military operations in the deep South face a budget cut of about 3 billion baht.

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