Army stuck in it past I

7 03 2019

Like so much of what has happened in Thailand in recent times, the sight of Army chief Apirat Kongsompong calling together some 700 officers to what was billed as “a special meeting” but was really a political rally, looks like a man of the past using the intimidating methods of the past.

With Apirat’s people saying that the “meeting” was about “the army’s role and peacekeeping responsibilities ahead of election day…”, it seems altogether too clear that Gen Apirat is positioning the Army to play a key political role into the future and to position himself to take over from Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha in a few years (if the junta’s and military’s election plans pan out).

Gen Apirat Thursday meeting at the army’s headquarters is also “a show of support for the army chief after officers shared an internal memo urging one another to defend the army’s honour.”

Honor? Thety mean power. After all, what honor does a corrupt institution that has killed tens of thousands of citizens have? Oh, yes, the “honor” is being the protector of the military-monarchy alliance, which requires that murderous politics.

The (old) boys’ club that is the Army has gotten upset that its acces to the political trough and to impunity may be limited. Hence it writes in circulars to itself:

If someone, whether he is a soldier or not, does something that undermines [our] dignity, we must have the determination to protect our honour and dignity…. If someone makes inappropriate remarks about our supervisors or troops, it is an attack on the dignity of soldiers.”

The last time we recall such a show of military “honor” was back in the Chatichai Choonhavan years, when on more than one occasion, officers were called to “meetings” to demand the ouster of prime ministerial adviser Sukhumbhand Paribatra. One of those meetings was captured by The Nation on 13 August 1989 (see above).

This was followed by another intervention where Gen Apirat’s father Gen Sunthorn Kongsompong demanded that certain critical cabinet members be silenced, reported in The Nation on 8 December 1990 (see below).

We guess that rotten fruit doesn’t fall far from the corrupt tree.

The military actively intervening in the election and snooping on and threatening politicians who are not pro-junta/pro-military may appear as something from the past, but this is where Gen Apirat has positioned himself and his forces. We suspect that the next coup, should there be one, will be his and will be even more royalist and backward-looking than anything we have seen in recent decades.



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