By The Nation
The subcommittee for procurement, ICT, state enterprises and revolving funds, which is vetting the annual budget bill for 2021, voted 5:4 on Friday to spend Bt22.5 billion on two more submarines.
The vote was deadlocked after four coalition MPs from the Palang Pracharath, Democrat and Bhumjaithai parties approved the Navy budget for the China-made subs, while four opposition MPs voted against. The opposition lawmakers were from Move Forward, Pheu Thai and Seri Ruam Thai (Thai Liberal Party).
The chairman of the subcommittee, a member of the pro-military Palang Pracharath Party, then voted in support, resulting in approval of the Navy budget.
Each submarine will cost Bt11.25 billion.
The planned purchase is part of a deal signed by the military-backed government of Prayut Chan-o-cha to buy three subs from China. The first submarine was purchased in 2017 and will be delivered in 2024.
News of the vote spread quickly on social media and sparked uproar among netizens. Many accused the coalition MPs who voted for the purchase of wasting taxpayers’ money at a time when people were suffering severe financial hardship from the virus crisis.
The vote comes amid growing anti-government protests nationwide, especially among students and workers.
Netizens began sharing the names of MPs who voted for the deal on Friday, and called on citizens not to vote for them in the next election.
The five who voted in favour of purchasing the submarines are Suphol Phong-ngam, party-list MP for Palang Pracharath; Siriwan Pratsachaksatthru, party-list MP for the Democrats; Jiradech Srivirat, Palang Pracharath MP for Phayao province; Kornis Ngamsukolratana, Palang Pracharath MP for Bangkok; and Chayuth Phumaganchana, Bhumjaithai MP for Prachinburi.
The deal may be reviewed during the upcoming second reading of the budget bill in the House of Representatives.