BANGKOK: Thailand’s junta-appointed lawmakers on Thursday signed off on a nearly $124 million budget hike for defence spending, while funds for education and infrastructure were pared back. The army seized power from the civilian government in 2014, saying it was forced to act to end bloody street protests and rampant corruption.The army, navy and air force will receive a two percent raise taking next year’s spending to nearly $6.1 billion, according to the budget endorsed by the hand-picked National Legislative Assembly. The budget comes into effect next month and runs until September 2017.It is the third straight year of rises in state spending for defence since the coup. Thailand’s royalist military has for decades been at the centre of politics, battering down the country’s nascent democratic movements.Each coup has broadly been followed by a handsome budget hike, while the civilian leaders who have governed intermittently have also lavished cash on the powerful military hoping to curry favour. The budget for education was given a 4.7 percent haircut to $14.1 billion and transport was cut by two thirds from $136 billion baht to $63.5 billion.“This budget will be spent based on laws and rules to maintain the country’s fiscal discipline,” Wisanu Krea-Ngam, deputy prime Minister, said in televised comments at the end of the vote, promising the budget allocation had been carefully considered.Experts say the budget follows a pattern that has seen defence spending creep up from around $5.7 billion a year before the coup.“Perhaps the rise does not appear to be breathtaking but the amount of spending is remarkable — really more than ever before,” said Paul Chambers a Thailand-based expert on the military, adding it was unclear how the spending had been justified. After years of impressive growth, Thailand’s economy is faltering, mired in high household debt, stuttering exports and low consumer confidence.