Saturday, July 26, 2008

National security strikes again!

Amongst the violence and political turmoil that rages on in Thailand, this little article caught my eye:

Military wants bigger budget
By The Nation
Published on July 22, 2008

High-ranking military officials yesterday requested a 17.8-per-cent budget increase for 2009 - Bt25 billion more than in fiscal 2008.

The military cited the need to improve its competence and maintain superiority over its counterparts in neighbouring Laos and Cambodia.

Royal Thai Navy commander Admiral Satirapan Keyanon, Royal Thai Air Force commander Air Chief Marshal Chalit Pukpasuk and Defence Ministry permanent secretary General Winai Pattiyakul gave reasons to the House special committee scrutinising the budget as to why they requested an allocation of up to Bt169.09 trillion or 1.68 per cent of the country's GDP.

Winai said the ministry's budget had been cut over the past nine years as the country was hit hard by economic crises, while the military lacked equipment and maintenance funds. At the same time, the country faced new security threats (I think this qualifies as my favourite expression!) . The military needed to secure new weapons because it could not depend on the low efficiency of the old weaponry.

"Our survey found that our military power is lower than that of Singapore and South Korea but a bit higher than Cambodia and Laos,'' he said.

Satirapan said the Navy has spent Bt120 million to maintain HTMS Chakri Naruebet, Thailand's first and only aircraft carrier, keeping it ready for use in warfare and social functions such as disaster relief.

Maintain superiority over Laos and Cambodia? That would be the same Laos that until this year had no train tracks, and no international ATM's? The same Laos whose biggest attraction is the fact that it is a sleepy backwater nation whose capital features a fountain and a very delicious Scandinavian bakery? The same Laos whose government is so lax it still has a few rogue anti-communist fighters left in its jungle from the conflicts in the seventies?

And of course, we have Cambodia. What a convenient time to mention a "threat" from Cambodia. Just like the junta had very convenient timing to mention a threat from Singapore a couple of years ago.

Singapore poses zero threat to Thailand and South Korea has far greater and closer threats to worry about.

Duncan McCargo quotes Benedict Anderson as saying: " [the Thai military is] a cluster of self absorbed, status conscious, privileged bureaucratic factions" before describing them himself as: "an armed bureaucracy which has not fought a real war in modern times".
Both observations are completely correct.

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