The military should be controlled

1 07 2013

The Bangkok Post reports that former Prime Minister and Democrat Party leader Abhisit Vejjajiva has been critical of current Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra for taking on the role of Minister for Defense.

According to this report, Abhisit reckons that the premier “wanted to interfere with military affairs” and in particular the upcoming military reshuffle.

Somewhat surprisingly, Yingluck defended her new role saying “holding both positions will allow the government to better support the military…” and reportedly babbled about the military and government having “independence in carrying out their tasks.”

Both political leaders are confused.

In general terms, Yingluck is apparently confused by even claiming that the military should have independence from the government. Modern militaries – and yes, we know the version in Thailand is a throwback – are meant to be under civilian control. Elected governments are elected to govern and that includes the military. Without civilian oversight, military leadership become politically interventionist, have impunity in all kinds of areas and generally become corrupt in their administration.

Supporting each other?In fact, the Thai military is a textbook example of a military that is all of this. Of course, Yingluck must tread carefully for this very situation means that Puea Thai government is always worried that the military will destabilize or overthrow it.

Abhisit is wrong for all these reasons and more. His view that the military should be “independent” is a rejection of earlier Democrat Party positions that civilians should control the military. After all, it was, briefly, Democrat Party premier Seni Pramoj and then Prime Minister Chuan Leekpai who were the first two civilians to hold this post.

The only other two civilians in the position were Samak Sundaravej and Somchai Wongsawat, at the head of pro-Thaksin Shinawatra governments, and who were both in political positions similar to that now faced by Yingluck.

Abhisit’s position on military independence from civilian control is determined by the fact that the Democrat Party is a pro-military, royalist party that owed its last stint in government to the military’s interference in politics. When Abhisit was premier, he was a virtual puppet for the military, and his regime presided over the military’s violent crackdown on red shirt protesters in 2009 and 2010. He is opposed to civilian control of the military because he and his party benefit from military interference.



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