How many “intelligence” officers?

12 01 2016

It seems the answer to this question is “[a]t least 1,600 officials … belonging to seven Thai agencies: National Intelligence Directorate, Army Intelligence, Navy Intelligence, Air Force Intelligence, Supreme Command Headquarters’ Intelligence, Special Branch Police and National Security Command Headquarters.”

This number doesn’t include cyber-vigilantes and other volunteers recruited to snoop on neighbors, whether locally or via the internet. We are unsure why the Internal Security Operations Command is not listed separately as it is critical in catching regime opponents.

That number is in an article by Kavi Chongkittavorn at The Nation. We don’t read his stuff much as it has tended to be yellow-hued and sometimes nonsensical. Yet this article brings some attention to the National Intelligence Strategy (2015-22), which Kavi says was recently approved by the Cabinet.Spy-VS-Spy

Thailand’s “intelligence” services, like their controllers who mostly inhabit the military or have military backgrounds, are organized for domestic operations. Once tracking down communists and other opponents of the state they now seek opponents of the royalist state, monarchy and junta. They have tended to rely on blunt instruments such as torture and murder. More recently, they have gotten interested in digital technologies as they see opponent lurking in cyberspace.

This is apparently acknowledged in the “Strategy,” which states that “Thailand needs new corps of intelligence officials who have a broader knowledge of their country and of events abroad, especially of neighbouring countries.” Recruiting such persons is going to be difficult as the education system is focused on delivering propaganda and “leaders” are not known for accepting advice that challenges the tropes and shibboleths of the royalist state.

The strategy acknowledges this with “old priorities,” with “those related to monarchy, the separatist movement in southern Thailand, political division in Thailand … and threats from extremists.”

Kavi reckons the “last category is something new. Thailand used to have a naive view that it did not have enemies and it is never the target of any group.”

That’s absurd when one recalls, for example, the ways that the military cooperated with oppositions to the Vietnam-backed regime in Cambodia in the 1980s and 1990s, including the Khmer Rouge, dealt with opponents of the regime in Burma over several decades. Then there were various “terrorist” events including the 1972 negotiated the release of six Israeli Embassy officials in Bangkok held hostage by Arab terrorists, the January 2000, storming of a hospital in Ratchaburi by 20 armed rebels from the Karen militia known as God’s Army, the murder of Saudi diplomats, several bomb plots against the Israel Embassy and more.

Under the military dictatorship the threats to Thailand are likely to be identified as republicans and “unfriendly” Western governments who refuse to believe the junta’s narratives.


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