Dogs of internal war

11 05 2020

The Economist has recently reflected on the military’s problems and the way it seems that average Thais are rejecting it.

Most of the article is behind a paywall, so we quote from it extensively in this post.

The article begins with a quote from Gen Apirat Kongsompong, Army commander, who spat out the complaint that “[e]ven military dogs are grateful to the army…” as he complained that the Thai people “should be overflowing with gratitude” to the Army, one of the country’s “sacred” institutions.

He seems to believe that Thais should be grateful for conscription, corruption and coups. Oh, yes, and those tens of thousands killed by the military in “protecting” the country’s ruling class over several decades.

Tongue in cheek, The Economist detects that “ordinary Thais do not seem to realise how lucky they are. Indeed, they have been showing signs of sacrilege.”

The report goes on to discuss conscription, observing that there is widespread unhappiness with this throwback enlistment and its associated modern-day slavery and its sadistic violence. It is noted that just 13% of “42,000 conscripts scheduled for discharge at the end of April have volunteered to stay on, despite the wilting economy,” adding: “So unpopular is conscription that a new party which promised to end it and seek other military reforms won the third most seats in last year’s [rigged] election.”

That would be Future Forward and the military’s regime got rid of it through their allies in the judiciary.

Rotten to the core

The report also discusses the “fuss about military spending is another sign of Thais’ diminishing regard for men in uniform.” Responding to rising protest, Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha’s regime quickly moved to cut “military spending by 8%.” It had little choice, as the economy is in even deeper trouble now than it was at the beginning of the year.

Then there was the “biggest blow to the army’s standing came in February, when a soldier went on a shooting rampage in the city of Nakhon Ratchasima, killing 29 people.” It judges that the incident:

revealed the army’s incompetence (the killer obtained guns and ammunition by raiding a poorly guarded armoury), corruption (he seems to have been enraged after being cheated in a property deal involving relatives of a superior officer) and arrogance (it was criticism of the army’s response to the killings that prompted General Apirat to complain about ingratitude).

Soon after the massacre General Apirat pledged to reform military housing and root out corruption. … [Gen] Prayuth weighed in, too, promising to halve the number of generals—there are about 1,700 of them—and to trim the army overall. Thailand has some 560,000 soldiers and reservists. Britain, with a similar population and pretensions as a global power, has about 230,000.

Of course, nothing has happened and nothing much is likely to happen.

The report has some gaps. More could have been made of the virus hotspot at the Army’s boxing stadium, presided over by Gen Apirat, but the main item that should have been discussed is the military’s relationship with the king. It is this relationship that has sustained both military and monarchy. It is a relationship that is rotten to the core, has damaged the country and has made many generals and the king very wealthy.


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