Lubricating the military

24 07 2010

The Abhisit Vejjajiva government owes its genesis and its continuation in power to the military. Not only did the military brass act as a collective midwife in the birth of the Abhisit government and then protect it with its guns, but it is also the essential force that has molded the Abhisit regime as an authoritarian order that has rolled back democracy and human rights gains made over the past three decades.

Some would argue that the civilians – Abhisit, his deputy Suthep Thaugsuban, Finance Minister Korn Chatikavanij and so on – are puppets for the military. PPT thinks this is a misinterpretation. In fact, this government might be fronted by Oxford graduates like Abhisit and Korn presenting liberal exteriors to the world, but they are deeply elitist and authoritarian in their political actions. They are deeply committed to conservative and hierarchical institutions like the modern Siamese twins, the monarchy and military. They have demonstrated a lust for dictatorial rule.

In this sense, they are not puppets but the civilian arm of a regime that merges the interests of the conservative elite in the palace, military and business. Hence it is no surprise to see the civilian government rewarding its military wing and bowing to the elders who have created, saved and developed this regime. The Bangkok Post story of the day is about how much that bowing and gratitude will cost the taxpayer.

The latest “requests” from the government’s brothers with arms are for: a new infantry division in the North said to cost about 10 billion baht over several years, a 5 billion baht procurement for 121 armoured personnel carriers (see PPT’s recent post on this); the continuing request for the 350 million baht reconnaissance airship that PPT has repeatedly posted on; 134 million baht to order 1,200 Mini Tavor rifles for special warfare soldiers and the 1st Army; and 16 Enstrom 480B light helicopters costing 1.2 billion baht. On the latter, the report says that the army will order these, but other reports say the order was placed in February.

Defence Minister General Prawit Wongsuwon is said to have approved army chief Anupong Paojinda’s request to allocate 10 billion baht “developing a new infantry division in Chiang Mai to secure the northern border with Burma and Laos, suppress drugs and cope with red shirt protesters…”. Note the last phrase. The army considers the crushing of the red shirts to be ongoing and wants a further 25,000 soldiers in the North. It is worth noting that the army has a remarkably dismal track record in border skirmishes with other nation’s forces.

On the failed and leaky zeppelin, only this week, an army committee “accepted the cameras and downlink system of a 350 million baht reconnaissance airship even though many problems have emerged with the imported airship.” The warranty is about to expire, but the army wants to continue shoveling money down a known rat hole. But rat holes also provide commissions and under-the-table lucre.

PPT commented on the army’s order for 96 BTR-3E1 armoured personnel carriers in a recent post. The new order for 5 billion baht comes without a single delivery of the 96 ordered years ago and from the very same supplier.

According to a source, Gen Anupong plans to ask the cabinet next week to approve in principle another order for 121 more BTR-3E1 APCs worth nearly 5 billion baht from the Ukraine. The total spent is likely to be more than 9 billion baht, but so far, not one is on the ground. The first delivery, of just two vehicles, is expected in September. (PPT wonders if their usefulness might be as artificial reefs, joining the Chinese tanks that filled military pockets but were essentially useless purchases in the late 1980s.)

Of course, the first order originated under the military-appointed government of General Surayudh Chulanont, the on-again-off-again privy councilor in a totally opaque deal, later approved by prime minister Samak Sundaravej, who tried his best to get the military on-side with his elected government, and largely failed.

Helicopters have been high on the list of purchases. The Post report says that when “red shirt protesters rallied last March, Gen Anupong sought cabinet approval to import six Mi-17 helicopters worth about 2 billion baht from Russia…. Last year the army chief ordered three Black Hawk helicopters worth 2 billion baht.” The report states that the army will shortly seek “cabinet consent to import 16 Enstrom 480B light helicopters worth 1.2 billion baht from the US.” Estrom list their Thailand representative as M Landarch Co., Ltd.

PPT wondered if Aria International, the penny company in the U.S. that supplied the airship was somehow involved in helicopter deals with the Thai army. Suspiciously, the site is down and “under construction.” However, see some details of the zeppelin deal here and here, but no helicopters are mentioned other than upgrades to existing army ships to allow use with the deflated airship.

All of this adds up to just under 25 billion baht. That’s not small change and handsome reward for crushing the opposition and maintaining repression. As the Post says, “The military helps the government confront protesters and is rewarded with opportunities to order weaponry…. Controversies over the wisdom of the purchases tends to be ignored, such is the government’s eagerness to please.”

Expect the military to continue to be an internal security force for several more years. Repression will continue.



3 responses

26 07 2010
Abhisit’s Mask of Moderation | Robert Amsterdam Thailand

[…] is no confusion. Abhisit and his government are responsible for a huge roll-back of rights and freedoms in Thailand. They have created a climate of fear and repression. Here we don’t refer just to the […]

5 01 2013
Army and Ukraine purchases « Political Prisoners in Thailand

[…] be expected, there were questions regarding cost and possible corruption and commissions and the billions shoveled to the military by the Abhisit Vejjajiva regime. Naturally, there were also problems with the APCs suggesting […]

5 01 2013
Army and Ukraine purchases « Political Prisoners of Thailand

[…] be expected, there were questions regarding cost and possible corruption and commissions and the billions shoveled to the military by the Abhisit Vejjajiva regime. Naturally, there were also problems with the APCs suggesting […]

%d bloggers like this: