Army getting knotted on politics

9 12 2009

In a report by The Nation (9 December 2009: “Red shirts promise restraint – for a day”) it seems that the army brass are thinking of stopping their senior officers being involved in politics. That would be an innovation and it might be thought that this represents a step forward. But, no, this is not a measure to stop coups but a measure to stop red shirts.

Some time ago, one of the army’s lesser generals and long-time Thaksin Shinawatra supporter Major-General Khattiya Sawatdiphol threatened to bring some of his serving supporters to Bangkok from Lopburi to support the red shirts. Earlier he was pictured meeting Thaksin in Cambodia and he claimed to have visited Thaksin in Dubai. Khattiya is an unsavory character, but that’s another story.

In the report, “Army chief General Anupong Paochinda said he had spoken to many paramilitary troopers and was convinced they would not join the political rally.” Here he is referring to Khattiya’s threat to have soldiers join the red shirt rally. Clearly, Anupong is worried.

General Apichart Phenkitti who is permanent secretary of the Defence Ministry has said that Major-General Khattiya, “who has been criticised for dabbling in politics, was a bad role model for junior officers…”. This idea of dabbling in politics by generals is an interesting one, for it applies to almost all of them, right to the very top, with Anupong having been a coup leader in 2006.

Apichart says he wants to change army regulations to allow for “harsher punishment of officers” engaging in politics. “According to 1933 Defence Ministry regulations, officers at the rank of general can only be formally rebuked by their supervisors for actions deemed inappropriate, such as making political comments in public.”

Apichart said that at present “[r]egulations require active military officers not to get involved with politics, although the Army does not prohibit political comments.” He added that “… such views must be made in an appropriate fashion…” and added “I see that [Khattiya] is a bad example for younger soldiers. There are lots of good examples and it’s also good that we have some bad ones. I have no concerns. We have both positive and negative sides…”.

PPT imagines that General Apichart thinks that good examples are those who speak on the PAD stage or who run coups that overthrow elected governments in the name of the king.

Meanwhile, “Anupong said he had instructed military authorities to take appropriate action in Khattiya’s case” meaning a rebuke from a senior officer. The current military leadership, like the current government, seems unable to be even-handed in political matters.

If the army did change the rules and if political shenanigans were no longer allowed, what would all the generals do ?



One response

9 12 2009
Major-General Khattiya and the Red shits rally tomorrow - - The Thailand Forum

[…] spoken to many paramilitary troopers and was convinced they would not join the political rally. PPT has this to say…. Army getting knotted on politics In a report by The Nation (9 December […]

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