Purging the military

8 04 2010

Wassana Nanuam at the Bangkok Post (8 April 2010) adds to earlier comments on “watermelons” in the military – “soldiers who may be wearing a green uniform but are actually rooting for the red shirts: green outside and red inside, just like a watermelon.”

For Wassana, the publicity for watermelons is good for the red shirts because it shows the “public that only the top brass is shoring up the government. The rank-and-file are with the red shirts…”. She observes: “there is no denying that the rift within the army is real.” Some of the brass feel miffed that they are unfairly overlooked for promotion because they are not aligned closely enough to the three top-most commanders.Then there are those close to Thaksin Shinawatra or his associates.

Army boss General Anupong Paojinda has admitted that there are “watermelon soldiers” but argues: “Bear in mind that a soldier must have no colour. We serve the country and the King…”. The army has now set up a committee “to probe their [red shirt supporting military people] conduct and mete out punishment accordingly.” Wassana concludes that “the hunt for the watermelon is on at the army. Those who are found to have ‘red flesh’ will be moved out of important positions. This includes those who happen to have a watermelon wife – whose spouse is supportive of the red shirts – as well.” PPT wonders about their children, maids, drivers, gardeners, and so on.

There has been a view that “most watermelon soldiers are in the lower rungs.” That view is changing somewhat: “there is suspicion among the top brass as well. Chief among the targets of suspicion are Supreme Commander Gen Songkitti Jaggabatara and navy chief Admiral Kamthorn Pumhiran – both of whom belong to the same Class 10 as Thaksin and who advanced in their careers because of the former PM’s support.”

It’s a witch hunt and demoralizing for many officers. Wassana concludes: “as long as nepotism is allowed to go on and as long as career prospects are limited only to those close to the powers-that-be, there will only be more, not fewer, watermelons within the army ranks.”


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