What did you expect?

5 06 2011

This post is really an addition to our previous post that focused on the military. The Bangkok Post has a somewhat surprising editorial that looks at funding to the military. The editorial begins:

This is scandalous. When the country is facing a serious shortage of physicians and is in dire need of budgetary support to improve the public health system, our military budget, when compared to the size of the economy, is one of the world’s highest.

A good point, but this is hardly a surprise to anyone, surely?

The editorial claims Thailand is short of some 10,000 medical doctors. There are only 10,000 doctors working in the state health system. It has some figures showing how well Bangkok is served by physicians compared with rural areas – again, that’s no surprise and is well-known.

But there’s a reason for this data. The editorial states: “It is unfortunate that providing people with health security has a lower priority than military might in this country.” It continues:

After the 2006 coup, which plunged the country into deep political division, the military budget rose by 50%, apparently because the Abhisit government dared not raise its voice.

PPT thinks that the increase is far in excess of 50%. After all, that was achieved under the premiership of Privy Councilor-cum-Prime Minister and General Surayud Chulanont. Further, we do not believe for one minute that the Abhisit government was not wanting to do this.

What did the writers at the Post think would happen when the Democrat Party ran and jumped into bed with its rough partner? The Democrat Party willingly undressed and laid down with the military. Of course, its courtship of the military began when the Party signed up for the overthrow of several elected governments. Rewarding partners is part of that deal.

We do agree that this is unusual as civilian governments have tended to reduce military budgets.

The editorial cites Pasuk Phongpaichit who says that the military budget accounts for 1.8% of GDP, “higher than Germany’s, the largest economy in Europe, with a military budget at 1.3% of GDP, and higher than Japan’s 1%. When it comes to the soldier per population ratio, it is 7.9:1,000 in the United States and 2.2:1,000 in Japan. In Thailand, it is 10:1,000”

In fact, in 2009, Wikipedia’s reliable estimates lists Thailand at 1.9% with only Singapore and Indonesia spending more in dollar terms. Thailand ranked 59th in 2009 for the percentage of budget spent on the armed forces. That’s probably the highest ranking Thailand has had on any index for a while!

So strong is the military that the editorial notes that “discussing a military budget cut is not on any political party’s agenda.”

With the military firmly ensconced in its political position, even discussing cuts for the military that smashes opposition is almost hopeless.  Like the Bangkok Post, PPT agrees that the military needs to have its budgets cut. But more is required.

This military buys poor-quality weapons – think of the airship that has yet another leak – at inflated prices because generals get kickbacks, where poorly paid lower ranks are exploited by the generals, treated as servants, ordered to kill their compatriots, used for smuggling and illegal activities, not least selling military equipment to bad guys.

It doesn’t need just a budget cut; it needs to be totally remade into a defense force from its present state. That state is a parody of a modern military: it is a bunch of puffed up thugs in uniform, decorated for its ability to repress domestic opposition and slithering about before royals. It needs to be a professional and non-political force that no longer defines its role as corruption, repression and incompetence through propagandized references to its supposed role as “protector of the monarchy.”



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