When the military plays unsupervised

1 05 2012

Readers may have noticed that the military brass has, by their own standards, been quiet in recent weeks. Yingluck Shinawatra has seemingly decided to look the other way and allow the defense minister to decide what the miltiary should be doing.

As Sukumpol Suwanatat carries the moniker of Air Chief Marshal, it looks increasingly like putting the pudgy Billy Bunter has been put in charge of Mrs. Mimble’s tuck shop. Cream is being ladled on the pie very thickly indeed.

The Bangkok Post reports that ACM Sukumpol has “proposed naval officers receive basic submarine training in China.” Now how can that be? The idea of buying used submarines from the Germans was canned some time ago. Even in this Post report Navy boss Surasak Roonroengrom “said the navy cannot afford to buy new submarines…”.

But ACM Sukumpol and all of the armed forces bosses have been swanning around China and “toured the Qingdao Submarine School at the weekend, and thought that offering instruction to naval officers would be a good idea.”

Yes, a “good idea.” Has to be when the navy has no subs, has no money to buy them and trainees would have to speak excellent Chinese. So there has to be something else going on.

Inspecting Type 039 Song Class attack submarines, ACM Sukumpol said “the ministry was still interested in buying submarines and was in the process of compiling information about them.” Think of the commissions involved!

And he added: “China is like family. We are sincere with each other…”. Also at the Bangkok Post, the China-Thailand “family” is doing more to enhance relations with ACM Sukumpol as the incestuous matrimonial agent. He described the visit to China by the Thai military brass “as a call by ‘the whole family’ to China which is ‘our close relative’.”

What do relatives do when they get together? It seems they threaten and scare neighbors. The Post states: “Thailand and China have agreed to jointly develop multiple rocket launchers with a guidance system as part of a move to strengthen military ties.”

These are rockets that sound like guided missiles:

Under the new agreement, the Thai Defence Technology Institute will work with China to develop new multiple rocket launchers called “DTI-1G [Guided]” which will be more accurate and have a greater range [over 200-300 km] than existing systems….

If that doesn’t scare the Burmese, Cambodians and Lao, may be this will: “Multiple rocket launchers are known for their devastating capabilities and ability to deliver a large amount of ordinance simultaneously…”.

And just for a bit of fun, at the Bangkok Post, we learn that a Royal Thai Air Force cargo plane has skidded off a runway at the Shahjalal International Airport in Dhaka, Bangladesh, injuring two.

The RTAF states that “the AGR 42-500 aircraft was on a training flight on the Don Mueang-Dhaka-New Delhi route between April 30-May 4.” As far as we can tell, there’s no such plane. We think they mean an ATR 42-500, which is a short range passenger plane, and this is confirmed in Bangladesh reports.

The last time PPT postedon the ATR 42-500 was back in 2009, when then Air force chief Itthaporn Subhawong presided over a ceremony at 9.09am on 9.9.09 receiving the first of four new ATR 72-500 royal aircraft. The air force had reportedly ordered these aircraft “at a cost of 3.65 billion baht at the time of the Surayud Chulanont government” following the 2006 coup.

The Dhaka media reports the event in more detail. One report states that three were injured in what seems like a pretty rough crash, smashing wings and breaking seats:

The crashed plane

Caab officials said the injured and other officials, who came to Bangladesh on a cross-country mission, are being taken care of by Thai embassy in Dhaka. The Thai Air Force members — eight officials and seven crew members– were supposed to leave for New Delhi today.

So is this a short-range royal aircraft that has crashed on a long-range “training” run or was something else going on?

There are all kinds of reasons for having the demonstrably unaccountable Thai military under the control of civilian authorities. By allowing the military to play with expensive toys and mess with policy unsupervised, the Yingluck government is encouraging waste and corruption. Of course, that is not unusual for Thai governments, but many soon learn that letting the military play by itself soon gets governments into trouble.



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2 05 2012
Wiping away blood « Political Prisoners in Thailand

[…] PPT posted on recent shenanigans in Thailand’s military. Coincidentally, in Rupert Murdoch‘s […]

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