Media reports say that Gen Apirat Kongsompong has postponed a 4,500m baht deal to buy Stryker armoured vehicles from the US amidst public scrutiny of budget spending during the COVID-19 outbreak. Besides the Stryker deal, the Army still has other 5,850m baht of procurements planned.
Gen Apirat Kongsompong
On 22 April, the Thai News Agency reported that army commander Gen Apirat Kongsompong has postponed the procurement of 50 Stryker armoured vehicles worth 4,515 million baht until the 2021 and 2022 fiscal years.
The move was made after the Royal Thai Army (RTA) Ordnance Department published notification of the vehicle procurement on 21 April. According to the notification, 50 Strykers will be purchased from the US under the US Foreign Military Sales (FMS) programme. The news raised public questions over budget priorities during the COVID-19 pandemic.
News sources from the Army said that Gen Apirat has returned 30 percent of the Army budget to the Treasury, a decision in line with a government order to redistribute budget allocations to handle the outbreak.
The sources also said that the RTA is unable to withdraw completely from the procurement because the deal has been submitted to the US Congress and the Thai Cabinet. The US will also grant an extra 30 Strykers on top of the deal. In total, the RTA will receive 130 Strykers as well as other assistance such as stationary cannon and command, medic and reconnaissance cars.
Besides the Stryker deal, other RTA procurement plans in this fiscal year include 155 mm. and 105 mm. artillery pieces, airplanes and the third-batch of VT-4 tanks. The entire package, including the Strykers, came to 10,350 million baht. The Ministry of Defence was granted a budget of 229 billion baht in 2020.
On 8 April, the Cabinet passed a resolution asking all ministries to consider transferring some of their budget allocations to support people during the COVID-19 outbreak. Ministry of Defence spokesperson Lt Gen Kongcheep Tantravanich said that the military has to consider postponing procurements.