Thai monarchy budget survives rare calls for cuts in parliament

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BANGKOK, Aug 22 (Reuters) - The Thai government's allocation of 8.76 billion baht ($262 million) for the monarchy in the next fiscal year survived unprecedented calls for cuts by opposition lawmakers during parliamentary proceedings that concluded on Sunday.

The questions over the royal budget in parliament’s lower house followed criticism of the monarchy and calls to curb its powers at youth-led protests last year.

The Royal Palace did not respond to questions on the challenge to the royal budget.

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The government lawmakers in parliament did not comment on opposition lawmakers calls for royal budget cuts.

The budget for royal agencies for the next fiscal year is for a 2.4% cut compared to the previous year.

It is the first reduction since all monarchy-related agencies were combined in 2017 after the succession of King Maha Vajiralongkorn.

Opposition lawmakers from the Move Forward Party said the allocated budget lacks clear details and should therefore be subject to cuts ranging from 15% to 40% based on the budgeting of these agencies prior to the merger and because funds maybe needed elsewhere due to the COVID-19 crisis.

"The royal agencies did not send a representative to explain the budget... there is only a seven-page document that did not explain much," Becha Saengchantra, a lawmaker from Move Forward Party said in parliament late on Saturday.

The budget bureau had earlier explained to parliament’s budget committee that 92% of the allocated budget for the "royal agencies" is for the payroll of its 14,275 staff.

Opposition lawmakers also raised concerns over other funds related to the monarchy that were included in planned expenditure in other ministries.

The budget for royal agencies is part of a 3.1-trillion baht draft 2022 budget. It still faces Senate and royal approval before the start of the next fiscal year in October.

($1 = 33.3500 baht)

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Reporting by Panu Wongcha-um and Panarat Thepgumpanat; Editing by Emelia Sithole-Matarise

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