Royalist military failures

27 04 2020

There are an article and an op-ed that deserve attention because they speak the truth on Thailand’s military.

The first is by Choltanutkun Tun-atiruj at Thisrupt. and is on the topic of impunity, something PPT has posted on many times over the years.

This article refers to the “arrest,” interrogation, torture and then the murder of one of two brothers accused of drug dealing in Nakhon Phanom on 17 April. 33-year-old Yutthana Saisa died and 29-year-old Natthapong Saisa was badly beaten after being “taken into custody by a group of military men.”

Drug allegations are common in cases where the military murders civilians. Torture is commonly used to extract “confessions.”

At “Yutthana’s funeral, a military representative came to pay respect on behalf of the military and offered the family 10,000 baht.” Generous of them, huh? One life is valued at a paltry 10,000 baht. You can see why the military has a history of murdering civilians; it just does not value them. And, as this brazen bribery shows, the military brass is remarkably arrogant.

The military representative also offered further assistance and requested that the military have one night to host the funeral ceremony.” The military has admitted to the deaths and promised an “investigation.” It is likely that will go nowhere.

The question arises as to what the hell the murderous soldiers were doing when they involved themselves in civilian investigations. Well, of course, during the military junta and now since the virus “crisis,” Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha issued orders that “gives the military broad powers to conduct a search or arrest of people accused of drug-related offenses, without a warrant.” This has meant that, for almost six years, the military has official permission to essentially get away with murder.

Contemplating the military’s role, Zachary Abuza has an op-ed on Thailand’s military at BenarNews. He is a professor at the National War College and Georgetown University.

He summarizes recent history:

From Ugly Thailand

There’s shockingly little pushback to the Royal Thai Armed Forces’ self-serving actions. Coup d’etats in 2006 and 2014 were met with resignation. The electorate showed up to vote in referendums to approve army-drafted constitutions, accepting that it was the best they was going to get. Elections were rigged. Parties that won elections did not get to rule, other parties were dissolved. Military-backed governments have mishandled the economy, hampering growth.

The military continues to see its budgets rise, even as the economy underperforms, despite the absence of threats. The armed forces’ budget increased from 115 billion baht (U.S. $3.55 billion) in 2006 to 233 billion baht ($719 billion) in 2020, a 103-percent hike.

While the military lashes out at corrupt politicians, it doesn’t even begin to try to address the unexplained wealth of senior officers….

And so to the culture of impunity.

Thais are inured to conscription, though it is unpopular. The Army has defended conscription saying that it is essential for national security. Yet there is ubiquitous use of conscripts as house boys for officers. And the regularity of young soldiers dying from hazing has caused a public backlash.

Thais have put up with the unexplained death of insurgent suspects while in military detention, and the wrongful deaths of people the Army at first claimed to be suspected militants, but later acknowledged they were not. More recently a soldier tortured a suspected drug seller to death and beat his brother. The military, again in the spotlight, has announced that it may press charges.

It may, or it may not. Or the case might just slide away, as they usually do. As Abuja puts it:

Under immediate public pressure, the military always states its commitment to investigate these actions. But in time, the investigations grind to a halt, and charges are dropped. Even in the rare cases where security forces are charged with wrongdoing and convicted, they are invariably freed on appeals. The culture of military impunity is deep and grating.

He points out how things fade away. Remember the “most lethal mass shooting in Thai history, with 29 dead and nearly 60 wounded in Nakhon Ratchasima?”  As ever, “Army chief Gen. Apirat Kongsompong would not take responsibility for the shooting, reinforcing the view that the military is beyond accountability.” Nor would he do anything tangible about the Army-owned boxing ring where a bout was held against official advice and a cluster of virus cases soon followed.

Clipped from Khaosod

It is, Abuja affirms, the “defense of the monarchy …[that is] the central justification for the military’s incessant meddling in politics.”

Indeed, most of the military brass has made it to the top by slithering to the monarchy and doing the crown’s bidding while enriching themselves.

The military leadership that extends high into civilian ranks is demonstrably hopeless and getting worse. It is also becoming more dangerous.


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